As ‘the most successful new touring British musical in a decade’ prepares for its final tour, composer and producer Matthew Bugg is looking forward to a trip down memory lane in coming to Blackpool.
Miss Nightingale heads to the Grand Theatre in February, a venue that’s been on Matthew’s hit list since first getting the show on the road in 2011.
Growing up in Sheffield, he recalls childhood holidays in Blackpool and Lytham, and in more recent years has ‘rediscovered’ the resort through its annual circus festival Showzam!.
“From the get-go with Miss Nightingale we wanted to go to the Grand, as we felt the audiences would ‘get’ the story, about theatre, passion and a gay love affair,” he said. “I have been trying and trying and trying and it’s great to finally get there – even if it is on our fifth and final tour.
“It has been a very special journey for me, as the first show I wrote and as an apprentice writer, just following my instinct and learning the craft.
“It’s been re-written and recrafted as we’ve gone on since it was first produced in 2011, but it’s a show I’m thrilled to have made.
“In the big scheme of things, it’s quite extraordinary to be the most successful procuder of an original British musical in the last decade as it’s not based on a book, or film or pop songs.
“And it’s exciting to have done that with subsidies, and just by having to work really hard to make it work financially.”
The original musical is described as ‘an hilarious and heart warming tale of love, loss and hope that brings the gay glamour and backstage affairs of 1940s London thrillingly to life.’
“It looks at how people at times of war have to live each day as if it’s their last,” Matthew added. “Whether that means in terms of their choices of being either corwardly or extremely brave, and that’s an interesting message whatever time you live in.”
The heroine of the piece is a ‘feisty Lancastrian lass’ – along the lines of the wartime favourite Gracie Fields – nurse Maggie Brown, played by Clara Darcey from Stockport, who’s hoping for a big break as a singer.
With her talented songwriter George, a Jewish refugee from Berlin with a ‘dark secret’, Maggie is picked up by ‘wealthy and closeted aristocrat Sir Frank’, on the lookout for a new act in his London nightclub, who transforms Maggie into ‘Miss Nightingale’ – a new West End star thanks to her outrageous costumes, saucy cabaret songs and racy love life.
Of bringing his work to the Grand, Matthew said: “I love the Grand, it’s one of my favourite theatres, so when we first staged the show back in 2011 I was determined to one day bring the show here and to finally tread the boards at the Grand.
“It’s only taken me five years to make my dreams come true and I can’t believe it’s really happening but roll on February.”
* Miss Nightingale, Grand Theatre, Blackpool, Thursday to Saturday, February 4 to 6. Call (01253) 290190 to book.