★★★★ | Miss Nightingale, The Vaults, London
The story of a chanteuse called Miss Nightingale who is caught between three men in 1940’s London during WW2 is now playing at The Vaults under Waterloo Station.
Leaving war-ravaged Berlin behind, Maggie Brown (a very talented Tamar Broadbent) and Polish George Nowodny (an excellent Conor O’Kane) arrive in The Big Smoke with Brown’s musical talent. Almost immediately, Brown is spotted by producer Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Nicholas Coutu-Langmead) and is urged to start singing for her supper. She’s a hit and starts dating Tom the drummer (Niall Kerrigan). But when their relationship goes down the drain (a bit unexpectedly), Brown, now known by her stage name of Miss Nightingale, falls into the arms of Frank. But Frank and the seductive George have struck up a relationship, all of this amidst the constant threat of blackouts, bombs and The Blitz – life in London during World War II was a treacherous and at times tortuous place.
Miss Nightingale is similar to the storyline in Cabaret where the songs are catchy and campy, however, there is the fear of the unknown, and it’s set amidst the drama and terror that is happening in the outside world. Broadbent is absolutely wonderful as the star of the show, petite yet singing with a big voice and big personality – she commands the stage. Coutu-Langdmead is just as good in his meaty role as Brown’s best confidante and Frank’s lover – though he’s got lots of emotional scars from his past that he can’t soon forget. But the actors in this show not only act, they also play the instruments! O’Kane is especially adept when he’s playing several instruments during one of Broadbent’s songs – is there nothing this man can’t do? The action (and drama) takes place in the small stage space that is The Vaults, not much space to move around but the actors do it, and class it up with their excellent performances and singing.
I can’t recommend this show enough – it’s got everything going for it – and there’s a cosy bar for those all important pre-show and interval drinks!
Miss Nightingale is playing at The Vaults until May 20th.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.