By Matthew Bugg
Mr. Bugg Presents
The Lowry, 20 January 2011
There is a love triangle at the centre of this terrific musical which, like Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, is set during the London blitz.
It involves an English knight (Richard Shelton), a Polish refugee (Ilan Goodman) and a fascinating chanteuse: the erstwhile Miss Nightingale (Amber Topaz).
The quirk or twist is that both men are gay – something we learn early on – and are besotted with each other, though neither one is above proposing to the lady in order to evade prying eyes.
Matthew Bugg’s musical has light and shade. On the one hand, Miss Nightingale’s numbers are rather risqué and provocative, with the ludic ‘Let Me Play On Your Pipe’ being a prime example. Her persona is that of a jildy girl with a lot of sauce, you might say. In the other palm, there are songs of real power and poignancy, such as ‘Waiting’, ‘Love’ and especially ‘Someone Else’s Song’. For some songs, two or all three principals can be heard; these were to my mind the most moving.
You are as involved in these characters’ lives as you would be in any big production or canonical musical. And this show is satisfying on other fronts as well: an engrossing story that offers a significant slant on the past. It is wonderful, heart-grappling stuff.