The new British musical set amidst the glamour and turmoil of London mid-World War II, Miss Nightingale, makes its West End premiere at The Hippodrome Casino this month.

Miss Nightingale tells the story of two men, theatre impresario Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe and Polish Jew composer George Nowodny, who fall in love while promoting their glamorous vaudeville act, Maggie Brown – otherwise known as Miss Nightingale. Frank and George, however, live in a world where their love is forbidden and the reveal of a homosexual affair could lead to social ruin and a spell in prison. Can they survive the odds, and, can Miss Nightingale thrive in a London devastated by war?

There are so many stories about the wartime period that it’s hard to find one that hasn’t been told. Miss Nightingale offers a fresh perspective by bringing to the focus wartime society’s hidden (but very much present) minorities. The period informs a touching story, with vibrant and refreshingly modern characters. It is a musical of this generation, set in another’s. It champions the equality and freedoms we value today in a world where such things were restricted and denied.

Matthew Floyd Jones and Oliver Mawdsley were beautifully genuine in their portrayal of the love shared between George and Frank. Their connection felt real and natural, making itself known in their speech, movement and touch. The balance of Floyd Jones’ larger-than-life and unapologetic George with Mawdsley’s more reserved, quintessential British bachelor (with a double-barrelled name to boot), is a strong foundation for the show.

Pulling the two together was the real star of Miss Nightingale in every sense, Lauren Chinery as the part-time nurse and part-time theatre sensation. Chinery is every inch the star Miss Nightingale should be, spellbinding the audience with her strong vocals, cheeky sense of humour and fantastic stage presence. She glides effortlessly through various musical styles, costume changes and comedic routines. The character of Maggie is a brilliant example of a leading lady, standing strong on her values and taking control of her own life and others (at one point, to a resounding cheer from a very appreciative Hippodrome audience).

The Theatre at The Hippodrome is a perfect home for this show and beautifully supported the ‘show within a show’ format. The low-lit buzz of the theatre instantly transports the audience to the 1940s theatre scene, a sanctuary that raised the morale of many suffering from wartime commitments. Cabaret-style seating really helps the audience to feel part of the show, and a healthy dose of audience participation keeps the audience amused throughout.

Tying the show together are some fantastic musical numbers, broad in style and scale but always engaging. The music is always on point with the period, as slick delivering slapstick humour as it does a painfully raw, emotional ballad. The sound transitions throughout also deserve a shout out, with each actor doubling as a musician throughout the show, so that an astonishing amount is achieved with a cast of six actors.

Miss Nightingale runs at The Theatre at the Hippodrome Casino until May 6.

Thanks also to Susy Brett who attended for us and guest posted. Find her normal twitter adventures at @susybumblebee


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