Frinton Summer Theatre, Frinton-on-Sea, Essex
The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the amateur soprano who couldn’t sing, reached a wider audience last year through the film starring Meryl Streep but, back in 2005, it was brought to the stage in Peter Quilter’s comedy, Glorious!. This has been revived at the legendary Frinton Summer Theatre in Frinton-on-Sea in Essex as part of its 78th season with a star-studded cast. With such a strong line-up, it should come as no surprise that it is a perfect delight, full of feelgood humour and hilarious performances.
We meet Florence in 1940s New York when she had already started to wow audiences with her toneless performances and recordings of operatic standards. We see her through the eyes of pianist Cosmé McMoon who has been recruited as her new accompanist, initially sharing our horror at her self-delusion about her singing ability but eventually won over by her kindness, charm and unrelenting determination to follow her dreams even though she has no talent.
Deftly directed by actor Amanda Root, the production benefits from a perfectly pitched performance from Stella Gonet who holds back from turning Florence into a broadly comic caricature, making us love her for all her eccentricities. Simon Shepherd is excellent as her devoted husband St Clair while Matilda Ziegler is fabulous as her dotty friend and number-one fan Dorothy – again resisting the all-too-easy temptation to camp up the comedy. With a rich array of facial expressions, Ben Stock is very funny as Cosmé, constantly battling his love of great singing against his need for the generous salary that Florence pays him. They are well supported by Nesba Crenshaw as one of her few opponents and Pia Laborde Noguez who shines as Florence’s Mexican maid.
These flawless performances, with glamorous costumes and sets designed by Neil Gordon, add up to a joyous, heart-warming production. It is a sparkling gem, tucked away in the small McGrigor Hall in the seaside town of Frinton, that would not be out of place on a West End stage.
Running to August 12, 2017