Make a Donation!
Criterion Theatre
Glorious! (2020)
Written by Peter Quilter
Sat 25th January to Sat 1st February
Memory

The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world

Director – Anne-marie Greene
Production Photos
Cast
Florence Foster Jenkins – Jan Nightingale
St Clair – Alan Fenn
Cosme McMoon – Joe Fallowell
Dorothy – Sara Russell
Maria – Kelly Davidson
Mrs Verrinder-Gedge – Nikki Gabriel
Stage Voices – John Ruscoe
Crew
Set Design – Nicola Newman
Wardrobe I/C – Pam Coleman
Lighting Design – Karl Stafford
Sound Design – Dave Cornish
Wardrobe – Rowena Tye
Props I/C – Frances Dixon
Props – Kerry Raynes
Sound Team – Ellen Sharkey
Lighting Team – Sarah Basford
Music Recording – Gareth Withers
Lighting Team – Paul Harrison
Music Consultant – Keith Railton
Set Paint – Judy Talbot
Set Paint – Paul Chokran
Choreography – Alan Fenn
Wardrobe – Elizabeth Stevens
Pianist – Roger Haygreen
Lighting Team – Anne-marie Greene
Stage Manager – Steve Withers
Stage Manager – Gennie Holmes
Wardrobe – Nancy Silvester
Wardrobe – Helen Elias
Prompt – Liz Hodgkiss
Props – Nicola Newman
Artwork Design – Emma Withers
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – James Folkard
Set Build – Ruth Folkard
Set Build – Nicola Newman
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Abigayil Tandy
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Painting – Linda Gregory
Set Painting – Abigayil Tandy
The Play

In 1940's New York, the performer who everyone wanted to see live was Florence Foster Jenkins, an enthusiastic soprano whose pitch was far from perfect. Known as 'the first lady of the sliding scale', she warbled and screeched her way through the evening to an audience who mostly fell about with laughter. But this delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics, instead she was surrounded by a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was. This hilarious and heart-warming play is based upon a true story, which was recently adapted for the 2016 film starring Meryl Streep in the title role. However Quilter's play is arguably much funnier than the film, spinning from Florence's charity recitals and extravagant balls, through to her bizarre recording sessions and an ultimate triumph at Carnegie Hall. 

Reviews of the play

'this Glorious-ly funny production... a strong support cast make the most of the comic opportunities offered by a play that’s peppered with them. There’s even a funeral scene that reduced the audience to the kind of hysterics that must have rippled around Carnegie Hall when Florence was in full flow. Jan Nightingale... takes on the lead with the confidence and relish required. And she really has a voice to match her surname." Chris Arnot, www.elementarywhatson.com 
 
'a brilliant tour-de-force by the cast of The Criterion... and perhaps appreciated most of all by the real singers among Saturday night's audience - some of whom were laughing so much they were in danger of needing resucitation.  Jan Nightingale really is comically sensational in the part of real-life, long-dead, would-be opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins. Only somebody with a truly remarkable voice could hit all those wrong notes with such precision.' Barbara Goulding    www.elementarywhatson.com 
 

'Jan Nightingale’s portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins is simply marvellous...We genuinely feel for her. No small part of that affection comes from the love her character inspired in those closest to her, which warms the whole theatre... This is a play about character, rich in humour, touched with just a hint of tragedy. It is amusing rather than hilarious, beautifully played, and it leaves you with a warm feeling that maybe, just maybe, our illusions might be more than that, and that even in this cruel world there might be room for hope.' Nick Le Mesurier for the Leamington Courier

Reviews
Review by Chris Arnot for https://www.elementarywhatson.com/
 
Her name is Nightingale. Jan Nightingale, since you ask. In this Glorious-ly funny production, however, she sings more like a starling crossed with a parrot on pep pills. Well, she is playing Florence Foster Jenkins, the woman dubbed “the worst singer in the world”. That was after she’d appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1944, aged 76, and many another packed house hitherto.
 
She was born into a rich family in Pennsylvania and christened Narcissa Florence Foster. And there’s certainly something narcissistic in her personality. Not much room for self-doubt among the self-delusion of a wealthy woman living her dream and somehow believing that the large crowds that have come to see her perform are in rapture rather than hysterics. Not even the dramatic intervention of a representative of the Music Lovers of America can quite shake her confidence.
 
Ms Nightingale takes on the role with gusto and aplomb, letting rip in a manner that threatens to shatter the chandelier that glitters over the grand piano in centre-stage. Singer and pianist were put to an early test on the opening night when a slight technical hitch required some inspirational ad-libbing that brought a spontaneous round of applause.
 
Rise from the keyboard and take a bow Joe Fallowell, one of a strong support cast. Under Anne-marie Greene’s direction, they make the most of the comic opportunities offered by a play that’s peppered with them. There’s even a funeral scene that reduced the audience to the kind of hysterics that must have rippled around Carnegie Hall when Florence was in full flow.
 
Alan Fenn plays her long-term lover St Clair (pronounced “Sinclair”) with the debonair aplomb that one might expect of an English Shakespearian performer – albeit one whose acting is evidently not much better than her singing. Kelly Davidson gives a splendid cameo performance as a menacing maid expressing her frustration in bursts of incomprehensible Mexican. Even Foster Jenkins might just have spotted elements of disapproval emanating from the kitchen.
 
Cue Jan Nightingale again. She takes on the lead with the confidence and relish required. And she really has a voice to match her surname, according to the Director’s Notes in the programme: “I knew I had to cast someone who could sing exceptionally well in order that they could sing badly enough, and she makes an awesome job of this.” 
Quite.
 
Let’s just hope that her voice is still intact by the end of the week.
 
 
Review by Barbara Goulden for  https://www.elementarywhatson.com/
 
Couldn't agree more with Chris Arnot's review. What a brilliant tour-de-force by the cast of The Criterion and perhaps appreciated most of all by the real singers among Saturday night's audience - some of whom were laughing so much they were in danger of needing resuscitation.   
 
Jan Nightingale really is comically sensational in the part of real-life, long-dead, would-be opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins. Only somebody with a truly remarkable voice could hit all those wrong notes with such precision.  I also loved the rest of the cast, the mad Mexican maid played by Kelly Davidson - nobody knew what the hell she was yelling about - then there was Alan Fenn as Florence's suave English boyfriend; her ditzy dog-loving friend (Sara Russell)  and eternally patient pianist Joe Fallowell. 
 
And while Jan sings truly terribly - truth is the real Florence was even worse.  You can hear an actual recording of her voice on the way out....and believe me it's just as well you're on the way out. For all that, this is a play definitely worth going in for.

 

 

 
Review by Nick Le Mesurier for The Leamington Courier
 

These days, when it seems a whole industry has been built upon the premise that we all can follow our dreams, the story of Florence Foster Jenkins is salutary. She is the original self-made star, the woman who through self-belief, or self- delusion depending on your point of view, got to fulfil her dream of being an opera singer.

Her story has recently been made into a star-studded film, but Peter Quilter’s play, Glorious! pre-dates that. We follow the true story of Miss Foster Jenkins from wealthy 1940s socialite to a star of Carnegie Hall, feted, or is it mocked, by the cream of New York society. Her fame rested on the fact of her voice, which was by all accounts, less than good. But something in her character must have appealed to a mass audience, for while they laughed at her they also sympathised with her to the point of adoration. She had legions of fans, though what they were applauding is another matter.

Jan Nightingale’s portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins is simply marvellous. To sing so badly so well does some doing. And Ms Nightingale does it well. We genuinely feel for her. No small part of that affection comes from the love her character inspired in those closest to her, which warms the whole theatre. She certainly commanded loyalty. Her long-standing / long suffering pianist Cosme McMoon (Joe Fallowell) and her lover St Clair (Alan Fenn) remained with her for years, partly for her money one suspects, but also out of something more. Then there’s her gloriously eccentric friend Dorothy (Sara Russell) and her dog Ricky, and her feisty furious maid Maria (Kelly Davidson) who speaks only Spanish but makes herself known nevertheless. On stage theirs is a warm, eccentric, delightfully daft sort of family, and the perfect backdrop to their star’s oddity. The only fly in the ointment comes from Mrs Verrinder-Gedge, representative of one of the many women’s groups that buzzed around Miss Foster Jenkins, who calls her bluff. But not even she can deflate the ego, or is it the optimism, of a woman who truly loved the art for which she had no talent at all.

This is a play about character, rich in humour, touched with just a hint of tragedy. It is amusing rather than hilarious, beautifully played, and it leaves you with a warm feeling that maybe, just maybe, our illusions might be more than that, and that even in this cruel world there might be room for hope. 

 

Share your memory of Glorious!
By clicking Share you agree to allow us to publish your memory on our website for others to enjoy. We reserve the right to not publish any content we believe to be inappropriate.
©2020 The Criterion Theatre Ltd
Registered UK 01643977
Registered Charity 1161430