War-torn 1940s London was transported 100 miles up the A1 to Peterborough for the opening of Miss Nightingale, The Burlesque Musical last night.
It’s a tragi-comic love story with some great toe-tapping tunes and a great all-round cast just starting out at the Key Theatre on the first leg of a 12-week run.
It tells the tale of fame-hungry northern lass Maggie Brown touting her talent around clubs in the capital without success with best friend and songsmith George and agent Tom along for the ride.
Everything changes when rich socialite Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe, war hero turned nightclub entrepreneur, spots Maggie - changes her name to Miss Nightingale - and puts her on the road to fame and fortune.
That rise is played out brilliantly with a truly captivating performance from the delightful burlesque queen Amber Topaz, belting out song after song, some saucy, some quite tender and moving, and all penned by the show’s writer/composer Matthew Bugg, who is also on stage throughout under a floppy cap playing piano.
That simple plot of ordinary girl done good is intertwined with an intriguing tale of illicit sex, scandal and showbiz.
Her righthandman George, superbly played by Ilan Goodman, is a homosexual Polish Jew, who fled Berlin but longs for success and yearns for the decadent, sexually-liberated German capital, but is haunted by the plight of his friends and family at the hands of the Nazis.
Well-to-do Sir Frank (the excellent Tom Coles) - a darling of the Press so far in his closet he can see Narnia, has troubles of his own. After an illicit moonlit tryst he falls in love with George, but is so desperate to keep up his public persona proposes to Maggie.
And then there is her wartime spiv boyfriend Tom, a convincing Alex Tomkins, a married man seemingly out to line his pockets however he can, including turning to blackmail.
It’s a heart-warming tale, filled with humour, much of it bawdy, and tinged with sadness, invoking the spirit of the roaring forties in great style, a time when people lived everyday as if it was going to be their last.
And a cheeky northerner singing the racy Let Me Play your Pipe and The Pussy Song certainly helped them on their way.
Miss Nightingale The Burlesque Musical runs every night at 7.30pm until Saturday (with matinees Wednesday and Saturday). Contact the Key box office on 01733 207239 or go to www.vivacity-peterborough.com