Sheffield duo's musical hits London's West End
A Sheffield musical theatre duo are excited to have achieved their ambition to get their show into London's West End.
For Matt Bugg and Toby Oliver of theatre company Mr Bugg Presents, the achievement has been down to several years of hard work.
The couple, who are also involved with creating the Cast pantomime in Doncaster, have been championing the show in venues of steadily growing size around the country
The show, set during the war, tells of singer Maggie, stage name Miss Nightingale, who leaves the North to break into the London cabaret scene.
Her music composer George, a refugee, is trying to find love as a gay man when homosexuality was a crime.
Writer and composer Matt said: “We’re now doing a seven-week run in the West End which is amazing.
“It’s where Julie Andrews made her stage debut, aged 14. It’s amazing the people who have performed there throughout the years there.
“Prince did his last UK gig at the Hippodrome. Anyone who is anyone has performed there, including Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt... I could go on forever listing them. It’s such a beautiful venue.”
Toby said the venue has gone for the Las Vegas model as a casino with a cocktail bar, restaurant and entertainment. “The theatre seats 180 so it is an intimate venue where they are moving into doing longer runs of shows, which is exciting for us.”
Matt added: “We’ve got a brand new cast for this time round, with lots of new arrangements of the songs and a couple of new ones.”
The entire experience is an immersive one, he said.“The whole event is entirely themed and you can get cabaret tables. When people come in there are a lot of surprises for them.
“As soon as they step off Leicester Square they’re going to be back in the 1940s. There will be air raid wardens and black marketeers and all sorts of people to meet straight from the doors, There’s even an air raid shelter.”
Food and drink are also 1940s themed. “The idea is they will feel like they’re the audience in Sir Frank’s club, where the show is set, right in the heart of London’s West Ed, so it’s a perfect venue.”
Matt said that the idea came from the Hippodrome, who approached them to bring the show to the venue.
He said: “They’d seen the show and loved it. They wanted to make it more of an experience and bring in the immersive elements. We’ve always wanted to do that and never had the right venue.
“We can meet with the audience and chat with them before the show and interact with them in character”
Toby pointed out that there will be two gay-themed musicals of Sheffield origin running in the West End at the same time. The other is Sheffield Theatres’ smash hit production Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which is continuing its highly successful run at the Apollo Theatre.
He said: “When has that happened before? It’s great. We’re moving into other genres of music and showing the world what Sheffield can do.”
The duo think of their heroine Maggie as a Sheffield lass. Matt said: “It’s still rooted in that experience of a Northerner going down to London and trying to find a way to be listened to.”
A situation that the duo are all too familiar with themselves.
But their ambitions haven’t stopped yet. Their next plan is for Miss Nightingale to conquer America.
Miss Nightingale is at the Hippodrome Casino, London until May 6