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Sunday, 31 March 2019

REVIEW: Maggie May at the Finborough Theatre

Maggie May was made famous by the 1971 Rod Stewart hit that has become a standard of his live concerts ever since and was based he said on an old song about a Liverpool prostitute. However, seven years earlier Lionel Bart had written a full musical around the same character as a follow up to his big hit musicals of Oliver (1960) and Blitz (1962). The Finborough which prides itself on “unique rediscoveries” has revived it over 50 years since its last professional production. The score won the Novello award as outstanding score of the year and the critics poll as best new British musical, so why has it disappeared from view?

It is an unusual score with a wide range of musical sources from folk ballads, to Jazz, to lullaby’s and laments and lively sixties pop dance and at one point an end of the pier music hall number. All the songs are pleasant tunes accompanied here by just MD Henry Brennan on the upright piano but none of them linger in the memory as tunes. What does linger is the central performance of Kara Lily Hayworth as Margaret Mary Duffy (Maggie May) sounding like Cilla Black. She beautifully captures the hard edge required to do her street work at £5 a man while showing her vulnerability and love for Pat Casey (James Dench) in songs like “I told you so” with her fellow prostitute Maureen (Natalie Williams) and “its Yourself “with Pat. 
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