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Previewed 1 November 2005, Opened 3 November 2005, Closed 22 April 2006 at the Duchess Theatre in London
Peter Quilter's new comedy Glorious! in London about the American soprano Florence Foster Jenkins and starring Maureen Lipman.
"People may say that I cannot sing, but no one can say that I didn't sing!" Florence Foster Jenkins - In 1940's New York, the performer who everyone wanted to see live was Florence Foster Jenkins, an enthusiastic soprano whose pitch was, unfortunately, far from perfect. Florence Foster Jenkins became known as 'the first lady of the sliding scale' - she warbled and screeched her way through concerts to an audience who mostly fell about with laughter. But this delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics, instead Florence was surrounded by a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was. This hilarious and heart-warming new comedy that highlights Florence's charity recitals and extravagent balls, through to her bizarre recording sessions and an ultimate triumph at Carnegie Hall. The critic Robert Bagar of the New York World-Telegram said of her: "She was exceedingly happy in her work. It is a pity so few artists are. And the happiness was communicated as if by magic to her hearers."
The cast for Peter Quilter's Glorious! in London stars Maureen Lipman as 'Florence Foster Jenkins' along with Barrie Ingham, William Oxborrow, Josie Kidd, Lolly Susi and Janie Booth. The production is directed by Alan Strachan with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Jason Taylor, sound by Dan Hoole and projections by Jon Driscoll.
"In Peter Quilter's touching play, starring Maureen Lipman, what begins as a joke becomes a lesson in how to live your dream. How you have to ignore or circumvent your shortcomings, make a positive for every negative, and believe in yourself. Quilter avoids what could be appalling sentimentality by leaving no bad joke unspoken, and Alan Strachan, who also directed Lipman in Re Joyce, allows his cast and designers all kinds of terrible liberties which pay off royally... If Maureen Lipman's Joyce Grenfell was memorable, her Florence Foster Jennings is unforgettable. She marries professionalism to chutzpah, her tiny frame padded beyond matronliness in a succession of increasingly masterful wonky costumes, a joy personified in a whirlwind of awful singing and endearing personality. Lipman has never been better, funnier, sharper, stronger, or more touching. Go and enjoy her. She won't make you think, or suffer, or give you a headache (except for Lakme's Bell Song), but she might make you dream. Florence and Maureen are irresistible." The Daily Express
"A lunatically funny comedy... Maureen Lipman gives a virtuoso performance, glittering, hilarious and technically breathtaking: this is comedy with a heart by an actress with a heart. She never mocks Florence: she admires her guts and her almost unshakable confidence." The Sunday Times
"Florence Foster Jenkins raised the roof and thousands of eyebrows when she sang at New York's glittering Carnegie Hall in 1944. This eccentric homegrown soprano was, quite shamelessly, tone-deaf, yet people loved her flamboyantly excruciating recitals, wincing with laughter at the travesty. And now Madam Jenkins is getting her second wind, portrayed by a waddling yet girlishly giggling Maureen Lipman.Directed by Alan Strachan, Lipman is on ebullient and endearing form in this bio-drama which should prove a popular Christmas show. Her rendition of Mozart's 'Queen of the Night' - akin to a cageful of chimps being goosed - is irresistibly awful... I'm not wholly persuaded Jenkins naively, or neurotically, believed she was a true virtuosa. But Lipman does, rather wonderfully, become America's all-singing answer to Don Quixote, connecting with everybody's dreams and delusions of being brilliant, as well as just getting out there and going for it." The Independent on Sunday
"It's only fair to report that thanks to Maureen Lipman's remarkable chutzpah and comedic talent as Jenkins in Glorious! - Peter Quilter's homage to this phenomenally talentless eccentric - the man next to me wept with laughter and begged for an encore... Lipman gives an extraordinary performance of a woman who is touchingly but sincerely deluded. I, alone I think, must confess to a bit of a sense of humour failure." The Mail on Sunday"
"Rich American Florence Foster Jenkins was once described as 'a symbol to all those who dreamed and didn't dare.' Madame Jenkins dreamed she could sing. She couldn't - wailing banshees would sound sweet in comparison. But she believed she had a genuine gift and dared to appear in concert - potential members of her audiences were interviewed to make sure they weren't bent on barracking. This affectionate tribute to a 22-carat eccentric - it's set in 1944, the last year of her life - has been lovingly written by Peter Quilter. He became fascinated by the world's worst warbler when he heard an old recording. But it is the casting of the formidable Maureen Lipman as Florence which elevates director Alan Strachan's production from so-so entertainment to polished theatrical gem. Lipman sings excruciatingly - how she keeps it up for getting on for two hours I don't know - and she delivers Florence's daffy dialogue so that not one laugh escapes. With a top-notch supporting performance by William Oxborrow as the gay accompanist who initially is horrified but ends up leading the applause at Florence's final performance in New York's Carnegie Hall, Glorious! is just that." The Sun
Maureen Lipman on playing Florence Foster Jenkins: "I try not to send her up, I try to tread a fine line, allowing the voice to slide all over the place, but doing it as someone who heard the music right in her head. It's not easy, but it's fantastically rewarding because the audience respond in a similar way to how I imagine they would have done for Florence. They laugh, they applaud, they shout, even sometimes at the end they ask for 'More!' I would be a lot more nervous if I had to sing well. You have, however, to learn to sing well before you can sing badly. She could sing for two hours at a stretch; I only sing three songs, although admittedly I talk a lot... Florence would have been pleased to know that we broke all box office records, ever, when we performed the play in Birmingham. Glorious! has the cutting edge of a spoon - it's delightful, it's batty, it's absurd and it involves the audience almost as if they were at a pantomime. I'm kind of honoured to be in her somewhat shaky spotlight."
Glorious! in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 1 November 2005, opened on 3 November 2005 and closed on 22 April 2006.