Miss Nightingale The Burlesque Musical (Review)
Jig For Victory! This month, the Lyceum showcased Matthew Bugg’s fun and flirty post-war production, Miss Nightingale the Burlesque Musical.
The show came to Sheffield for two performances as part of its UK tour and centres upon Maggie Brown, a singer who transforms her act into a burlesque performance with the aid of her housemate George Nowodny and her employer Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Miss Nightingale has better names than a Harry Potter novel, you may note).
And it's just as magical. Set in London in 1942, the production was infused with jazz music that was performed by the actors themselves, creating a vibrant atmosphere that really captured that sense of music hall performance on the stage. It's a canny decision – removing the division between the audience and the actors to create a theatre full of people clapping along to the funky sounds of the ukulele and saxophone.
The show’s main focus was to portray a true burlesque performance. Nowadays we tend to associate the art form with stripping, but traditional seventeenth century burlesque focused on parody, with performers undercutting their sexuality in order to receive laughs from their audiences. This certainly was the case in Bugg’s musical with songs such as Let Me Play on Your Pipe and The Pussy Song, reminding us that innuendo never fails to create amusement.
The cast made this production an unforgettable performance, especially Amber Topaz whose portrayal of Maggie Brown/Miss Nightingale was incredibly humorous and compelling as she instantly drew the audience’s attention whenever she was performing upon the stage.
Not only did the show focus upon this form of entertainment, it highlighted issues in 1940s Britain such as public attitudes to homosexuality, which could mean social ruin and the risk of a term in prison. Lian Goodman’s portrayal of George added an bit of emotional omph to a production where the initial focus was to present comedy.
Overall, the night was full of fantastic music, comical entertainment as well as bringing the darker social issues present in WW2 Britain to the surface. This is an incredible production that will go on to entertain audiences throughout its UK tour.
Miss Nightingale The Burlesque Musical is touring the UK now. Visit the website here.
Review by Nicky Day
The Lyceum, Norfolk St Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA