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, great, 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 dramatists 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.
Lipman’s other West End credits include Oklahoma!, The Cabinet Minister, Lost in Yonkers and The Sisters Rosensweig. She’s also well known for her TV appearances, not least as Beattie in the long-running British Telecom commercials, as well as her novels and magazine columns.
In Glorious!, Lipman is joined by Barrie Ingham as her boyfriend and William Oxborrow as her young accompanist. The cast also includes Josie Kidd, Lolly Susi and Janie Booth. The premiere production is directed by Alan Strachan and designed by Simon Higlett. It’s produced on tour and in London by Michael Codron and Lee Dean by arrangement with Birmingham Rep.
Glorious! will be the latest in a string of Birmingham Rep productions that have transferred to the West End in recent years, including Of Mice and Men, Fuddy Meers, The Old Masters, Roald Dahl’s The Witches, The Birthday Party, Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina's Kitchen and, now in previews at the Garrick Theatre, Nigel Planer’s playwriting debut On the Ceiling.
Prior to London, Glorious! runs in Birmingham from 2 to 17 September 2005 and then visits Newcastle, Malvern, Richmond, Glasgow and Bath, where its regional schedule concludes on 22 October (See News, 2 Mar 2005). The Duchess Theatre has been dark since the premature closure of the musical Behind the Iron Mask (See News, 4 Aug 2005).
- by Terri Paddock