Following its sell-out premiere in The Lowry’s Studio in 2011 a reworked Miss Nightingale is back bringing extra sex, scandal and showbiz to the larger Quays Theatre this month. Miss Nightingale brings the teasing art of burlesque back to its traditional roots of British music hall and continental cabaret following the story of Maggie Brown and her search for fame and fortune in 1940s London.
Rotherham-born international burlesque bombshell Amber Topaz stars as the Northern songbird Maggie in a new full-length version of this acclaimed musical with a larger cast, over 20 original songs and more outrageous outfits.
Manchester’s Finest got to meet up with Amber – who has been hailed by critics as ‘the moving shaking, dancing sex bomb’ – to find out how she got into burlesque and what to expect from the forthcoming production.
So Amber, it’s a return to the North for you with this tour of Miss Nightingale, how do you feel about being back at The Lowry?
I’m really excited, I loved being here last time so it’s great to come back again to perform in their larger theatre as we were in the Studio on our first visit. If you managed to see it in 2011 you will realise the storyline is the same but we’ve added new songs and expanded on characters too. Another change we have made it to make Maggie northern as before she was a londoner so for me it gives the character more depth as the humour is different. I find northern humour is more earthy and self-deprecating so to perform that to a northern audience is great as they just seem to get it.
Amber began her career in West End musicals, including lead roles in The Canterville Ghost and Les Miserables before razzle-dazzling her way to international burlesque stardom. She’s been performing the art of burlesque since 2002 though and has not looked back since.
How did you make the move from musical theatre Amber?
Well my intention was to stay in musical theatre and pursue a career but the nature of the business is that there are so few roles that it is a frustrating as a performer. Even when I got what I thought was my ‘dream role’ I didn’t enjoy it and the uncertainty of the profession. I fell into burlesque by chance after modelling for a photographer who was shooting a cover for some music I had wrote. He asked me if I would help him out and do some photos dressed in 1940s and 50s pin-up style, after the shoot he suggested I do some burlesque as I had a real vintage look. At the time there was a real underground burlesque scene in London so I started performing there at first for fun and 9 years on I haven’t stopped working!!
Why do you think burlesque has had such a resurgence over the past few years?
I think we just love being entertained and burlesque is highly entertaining. It is parody and satire at its best. A long time ago burlesque was regarded as erotic and simply an act for men but now you find there are more women in the audience. Nowadays we don’t seem to dress up when we go out and I think people miss that so they enjoy seeing the glamour onstage in a burlesque routine. You also find people coming to the show all dressed up in 1940s attire and really getting into the spirit of it. Burlseque is an empowering art and it’s great to see so many people comfortable in their own skin.
You can catch Miss Nightingale at The Lowry from 19th-22nd June at the Quays Theatre.