Oscar winner Judi Dench plays the titular feisty widow who, on the eve of World War II, buys a theater and sponsors a musical revue. When she and her headstrong showrunner, played by Bob Hoskins (Vanity Fair), decide to add nudity to the program, the two must work together to forestall not only the shadow of the encroaching war but Old London Town's puritanical attitudes.
Researching a movie with so many musical numbers, director Stephen Frears had to do some attitude adjustment of his own. ''I had to learn about the American musical cinema,'' admits the British director of such decidedly un-Hollywood fare as The Grifters and Dirty Pretty Things. ''American cinema and the studios things that we're brought up to think of as the enemy actually were full of extremely clever people.''