"Engaging Cabaret in Wartime London"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 24/03/18

Miss Nightingale a new musical currently playing at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square is set in a nightclub in wartime London. Appropriately, the theatre space in the Hippodrome has been set out as a nightclub with tables for the audience to sit at (at least on the ground floor) and waiter service during the performance. An oblong stage has been set up much wider than it is long with a facsimile of a curtained proscenium arch indicating the nightclub stage . To the sides a piano and drums set. All the scenes played outside the cabaret were set up with simple furnishings by the cast. Copious quantities of smoke filtered down throughout the performance evoking either London fog or effects of wartime bombing.

The play tells the story of a northern lass Maggie Brown (Lauren Chinery) who works by day as a nurse in the hospital and by night is trying to make a name in the entertainment business. There are clear echoes of "Cabaret". These resound even more in the character of George (Matthew Floyd Jones) a Polish Jewish homosexual who has fled Nazi persecution in Berlin and teamed up with Maggie. The other two main characters are also rather stock : Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Oliver Maudsley) the upper-class ex-military owner of the nightclub and Tom Connor (Adam Langstaff) a wide boy bootlegger. The rather complex and evolving relationship between these four characters is the substance of the piece.

What made the performance was the music and the energy and virtuosity of the six performers. They worked very well as a team. In addition to singing, dancing, they accompanied themselves on a whole range of musical instruments. The accolade of the night must go to Lauren Chinery in the title role; tall and slim, her energy and effervescent personality and great range of facial expressions dominated the stage. She appeared in a range of different dazzling costumes often displaying her extraordinarily long legs and on press night when her set of glasses decided to make an impromptu performance themselves handled it with great aplomb.

In a musical the music is of course almost everything and in this play it was varied and easy to listen to and the songs were directly relevant to the action ongoing. There is a fair amount of innocent smut of the seaside postcard variety : the " Pussy Song" and the " Sausage Song" along with some truly dreadful one-liners . The credit for the music has to go to the writer and director Matthew Bugg. The lighting and sound were both accomplished and appropriate and well marked transitions between the scenes .

This is not a great piece of drama, but it is an extremely engaging and enjoyable evening.

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