As previously tipped (See The Goss, 14 Feb 2005), Maureen Lipman (pictured) will return to the stage later this year to play “the worst singer in the world”. She’ll star in Peter Quilter’s new play Glorious, which will have its world premiere at Birmingham Rep, running from 2 to 17 September 2005, ahead of a planned West End transfer.

Based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, Glorious tells the true story of the eccentric American otherwise known as the “socialite soprano”. During the 1930s and ‘40s, the somewhat delusional singer made a career out of doing concerts, although she couldn't hit a single note. The “dire diva of din” recorded many records, including one entitled Murder on the High Cs and perhaps her most famous recording of Mozart's Queen of the Night aria. After doing a series of private concerts at the Ritz Carlton in New York, the singer braved Carnegie Hall - and sold out months in advance.

It won’t be the first time Lipman has trod the boards in tribute to late, real-life ladies. Her one-woman show Re-Joyce! was about Joyce Grenfell and in Alan Plater’s 2000 play Peggy for You, she played the literary agent Peggy Ramsay. She was most recently seen in the West End in Aladdin, opposite Ian McKellen at the Old Vic, and the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Shaftesbury. She’s also well known for her TV appearances, not least Beattie in the long-running British Telecom commercials, as well as her novels and magazine columns.

Glorious will be directed by Alan Strachan and co-produced by Michael Codron with Birmingham Rep. No venue or dates have yet been confirmed for the West End season.

Glorious is the latest in a string of Birmingham Rep productions that have recently transferred to the West End, including Of Mice and Men, Fuddy Meers, The Old Masters and in the coming weeks, Roald Dahl’s The Witches, currently on tour, and the revival of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, which opens at the Rep later this month.

In addition to The Birthday Party, the Rep’s spring season includes the NT co-production of Elmina's Kitchen (See News, 16 Dec 2004). Starring the playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, its current Birmingham run continues until 5 March before a tour to 2 April. Further ahead, running from 22 April to 7 May, Tim Firth’s comedy about four middle-aged managers on a team-building weekend in the Lake District, Neville’s Island is revived in the main house. It’s directed by Paul Raffield who was in the original West End cast.

Meanwhile at the Rep’s studio theatre, visiting and in-house productions this spring include Kali Theatre’s Chaos and Bells, Low Dat and Billy Cowan’s Smilin’ Through. A new part of the Door schedule is the ‘First Stages’ initiative, featuring a selection of plays geared towards very young audiences.

- by Terri Paddock & Hannah Kennedy