Sheffield actress and musician Jill Cardo is ready to break into song on home turf in Miss Nightingale – the Musical.
The show, created by another Sheffielder, Matt Bugg, has just started a second successful national tour that calls in at Cast in Doncaster next week and returns to Sheffield later this month.
Jill plays Maggie, a feisty northern singer who is trying to make her breakthrough to stardom in the cabaret clubs of London during the Second World War.
Her songwriter, George, is a refugee who has to hide his sexuality at a time when being gay was against the law.
While Maggie creates a saucy and sexy, larger-than-life character on stage, when she is seen performing lots of comic songs, inevitably the tragedies of war touch her and George’s lives off stage.
Matt has been busily reworking the show and musical numbers and added new material as well.
The cast also have new costumes, so Jill says the show feels quite different to the first national tour, when Rotherham burlesque performer Amber Topaz played Maggie.
She added: “We’re not using radio mics, so we’re doing it exactly how the show would have been done in the 1940s, with no amplification.
“We’re trying to use vintage everything, costumes, music, and that goes down to the arrangements as well.”
Jill said that a lot of the actors also play music on stage. She plays the trumpet and says it gives her a chance to “bring this brassy element to this brassily-written character”.
Jill said of Maggie: “She’s a lot to handle. She’s a tiny little thing but a strong woman and a really good example of where we were hoping women would go in general.
“She’s feisty and she’s got a lot going on. She’s in a situation where she’d really come into her own, trying to make her own way in the world.
“She doesn’t always go about things in the best possible way and has a tendency to speak before she thinks and dive in feet first.
“She’s so enthusiastic and will work 100 miles an hour for someone she cares about. Just don’t get on the wrong side of her.”
Jill added: “She’s a brilliant character to play as she’s so much fun. In the few moments she’s not able to say how she’s feeling in real life, she says it on stage.
Jill said that the events in the play take place over a few months, but so much happens that the characters feel like they have aged a lot more than that, reflecting how Maggie puts 100 per cent into every aspect of her life.
The actress was born in Nether Edge, where her parents Jacqui and Brian still live. She grew up in High Storrs and went to Ecclesall Infant and Junior School and High Storrs schools.
Jill took part in school plays in sixth form and played in the Sheffield Music Service concert band.
She learned dance at Bailey-Cox and got into drama by going to Act One from the age of 14. She said: “My family were really supportive. When I was aged 14 to 16 if I wasn’t dancing, I was at band or going to Act One!”
From there, Jill went on to the Rose Bruford drama school, studying actor musicianship.
She has a background in radio drama as she got a bursary from the BBC straight out of drama school. She said: “I spent the first six months doing radio dramas. It was like a repertory company, working with other actors.
“It was a really good way to learn, making sure your voice is communicating as clearly as possible. I did lots and lots of productions in six months.”
She says she never ran into Matt in Sheffield, meeting him instead when she worked for the theatre company Northern Broadsides two years ago. He was the choreographer on a show that Jill was appearing in. Jill is thrilled with the show. She said: “I love musicals. I think I feel really comfortable doing them. They are a brilliant way to make theatre.”
Miss Nightingale – the Musical is at Cast next Thursday, April 10. Box office: http://castindoncaster.com/ or call 01302 303959.
Catch the show at the Library Theatre, Sheffield from April 28 to May 2. Box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.