Admirably directed by Roger Newman, Peter Quilter’s monumentally funny and moving play Glorious! proves that audience laughter for actors can indeed be music to their ears.
Peter Quilter’s monumentally funny and moving play
Set in New York, the story of Glorious! is one of Florence Foster Jenkins, played at The Lace Market Theatre by the gloriously talented and witty Alison Hope. Mrs Jenkins (as she liked to be known) was a New York socialite in the 1930s and 1940s and was feted for her charity and very off key singing voice. This lovable eccentric won the hearts of New Yorkers and fans all over the world. Her big personality and ‘voice’ gained fervant admirers including well known celebrities such as Cole Porter and Italian operatic tenor Enrico Caruso. In her head she could sing just as well as the opera professionals she admired. However, the noise she made in her attempt at operatics was an aural calamity and this is what made her so special and charmingly quirky.
Hope’s very human portrayal is brilliantly heart warming as well as very funny. Her ‘songs’ are sung with evident love of the woman she is playing and never become screechy. The concerts sections are so good that the audience spontaneously behave as if they themselves are the attendant hand picked New Yorkers listening in and smiling in admiration at the entertainment.
In a role that requires great subtly and underplaying, plus piano playing skills, Chris Sims is superb as pianist Cosme McMoon. His acting is restrained and referential towards the semi- closeted sexual nature of his character and Sims pulls off his many witty ripostes delightfully. His portrayal is exceptionally believable particularly in the final scene which is beautifully handled technically as an actor and technically in lighting and sound effects.
As Florence Foster Jenkins actor boyfriend, St Clair Byfield, performer Max Bromley uses his consummate stage skills to the max. Bromley shows us the loving man that has a bit of an eye for the ladies but never strays too long from Florence Foster Jenkins’ side. His fine attention to detail in his role makes Bromley’s performance very watchable and believable as the hammy actor St Clair Byfield.
Beverley Anderson is outstanding as tetchy Spanish maid Maria. She appears to speak Spanish like a native and her stage presence is magnetic and very funny indeed showing superb comic timing throughout.
As the dog- dotty Dorothy, Carol Parkinson is a real hoot as she compliments Alison Hopes’ Florence Foster Jenkins in wacky behaviour. Her handling of Ricky the dog is uproarious. It is a joy to witness an amateur cast of such professionalism and understanding of the skills of making the audience laugh and Parkinson has an abundance of comic skills to offer.
Florence Foster Jenkins wasn’t universally liked and some rebelled against the way she ‘sang’ and liked to express themselves in high society against her. Such a person is portrayed in the play and called Mrs Johnson. She is played by the excellent Cynthia Marsh. Resplendent in fur collar and spitting indignation Marsh commands the stage as she rebels against Florence Foster Jenkins’ style and popularity. She also sports the most authentic American accent on the stage of Glorious!
There are several settings in the play and each change is swiftly executed and the whole is wonderfully designed with tremendous Art Deco period style by the talented Carole Philip. The costumes are top class. Additionally the truly atmospheric lighting design is by Hugh Philip and Gareth Morris’s sound scape gives real atmosphere and depth to this most excellent production.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe
Photos by Mark James.
Glorious! at the Lace Market Theatre runs until Saturday 28th January 2017.