Review: Miss Nightingale by Matthew Bugg is at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until April 5

Jill Cardo in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musica,l being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswi

Jill Cardo in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musica,l being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Miss Nightingale has returned to her nest at the New Wolsey and is not only in fine voice but looks good in her new plumage.

Tomm Coles, Jill Cardo and Harry Waller in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musical, being staged at

Tomm Coles, Jill Cardo and Harry Waller in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musical, being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The new musical about wartime nurse Maggie Brown, who dreams of becoming a nightclub singer, premiered last year at the Ipswich theatre, and after an extensive national tour has been re-written and re-directed to come up with a sharper, more focused show.

Jill Cardo in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musica,l being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswi

Jill Cardo in Miss Nightingale, the burlesque musica,l being staged at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

It captures the spirit of those underground (literally) nightclubs that littered London’s West End during the war years.

Jill Cardo shines as the feisty, trumpet-playing Miss Nightingale and gives Maggie Brown a more rounded, three-dimensional feel than the previous burlesque incarnation.

She makes the most of Matthew Bugg’s ingenious, innuendo-filled cabaret songs while at the same time also giving the quieter narrative numbers some genuine emotion. The wide-ranging mix of songs gives the show an added texture which was missing last time. The whole experience was much more layered and allowed the audience to get beneath the performance exterior of the characters.


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The previous production was very much a show about the star. This works so much-better as an ensemble piece.

Sharing the stage are Tomm Coles (the only returning cast member) as impresario Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe, Harry Waller as Polish refugee and songsmith George Nowody and Adam Langstaff as Maggie’s duplicitous manager Tom Fuller.

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The actor-musician cast provide strength in depth for this engaging fast-moving show as they explore the dangerous world of gay relationships at a time when people were living each day as if it were their last.

Composer and multi-tasking musician Matthew Bugg and director Peter Rowe have done a cracking job in giving this story real heart while also allowing the cabaret atmosphere to shine through.

The action moves seamlessly from onstage to backstage, and although there are echoes to Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, echoes are all they are. This is London not Berlin and it tells a different tale.

Andrew Clarke

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