By Matthew Bugg
Mr. Bugg Presents
The Lowry, 19 June 2013
I saw an earlier production of this musical, the story of a torch singer in a London nightclub during the Blitz and a clandestine homosexual affair, a couple of years back – it was excellent then and is even better now.
Quite a few things contribute toward forming this impression. For one thing, seeing Miss Nightingale at the Quays theatre rather than in the smaller Studio allows one to better appreciate its quality and stature. You are looking up towards the stage rather than peering down. There also seem to be more songs in this production, and while most are presented as burlesque performance, even these move the story forward and convey character. This is classic musical theatre, nothing less.
The characters are more rounded, more fully fleshed out now – and by that I don’t mean merely that Miss Nightingale (Amber Topaz) is more voluptuous than I remember her, or that her performances display to even greater effect her considerable talent for tease and comedy. She’s a stylish and saucy comedienne, certainly; and she has a voice whereas her musical companion George (Ilan Goodman), a Polish refugee, Jewish and gay, does not. But my point is that London itself is a kind of character in the musical, this being suggested in myriad ways. Not necessarily wartime London but rather the seedy/elegant city of the ‘30s and ‘40s, the London that Gerald Kersh was familiar with and that D.J. Taylor (see his James Ross novels) is currently so enamoured of.
Cabaret if Kersh rather than Isherwood had been the source text – that would be one way of summing up a musical that feels already like a modern classic.
Miss Nightingale is at The Lowry until 22 June then tours thoughout the UK until the end of July. Tour dates are here.