Damn that Shelly Hopkins. You remember her – the golden girl you knew in high school who stole all your lead roles? To add insult to injury, now she’s got a husband, kids, a job (one that involves teeth, but still) and worst of all, the pick of the choice parts in every Peekskill community production.
Not so for our heroine Anita Boult (Debbie Bridge), a perennial chorus girl still aiming and flailing for that big break on Broadway. Losing in life, love and real estate (after moving back in with the ‘rents) Anita’s story interweaves itself through the lesser-known songbook of America’s golden age of the Gershwins, Copland and Bernstein, clinging effervescently to that destructive emotion ruling every performer – hope.
Anita Boult personifies the girl at the back of the chorus line – always an understudy, never a star. Bridge’s voice, often more expressive than pretty, betrays a raw, wounded quality that slices through the intimate space of The Nightingale like an x-ray. It builds and builds through sweet little tunes (‘A Little Bit in Love’) and sweeping arias (‘Laurie’s Song’) until heartbreak and failure help it reach its pinnacle with Samuel Barber’s haunting 1941 composition ‘Nocturne’.
Miss Givings is every wide-eyed performer’s story – from the delight in exercising your talent, through the nerves and excitement of auditions, to the deflating self-doubt that accompanies not getting picked. The stinging realisation that your past victories have been modest coupled with the almost excruciating thrill of sharing your true self onstage culminates in a bittersweet denouement.
An adept storyteller, Bridge is likable and ebullient, versatile and purposeful in bringing tragicomic Anita to life. If you’ve ever slept in your tap shoes, belted a Babs-Judy-Liza medley in the shower or were picked last for every sport, Miss Givings should take pride of place on your festival agenda; a perfectly pleasant way to spend an evening.