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Gloriously Glorious!

Angela Minto as Florence Foster Jenkins. Photo by Chris Clarke.

Glorious! By Peter Quilter. The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world. At The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from 18-22 June.

Review by Ann Evans


Peter Quilter's play is entitled Glorious! And really, it couldn’t have been called anything but that! It's gloriously funny, gloriously entertaining, with a cast of actors who play their parts … gloriously!

This is the true story of American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins, born in 1868 to a wealthy Pennsylvanian family. While Florence was a talented pianist from an early age, her singing abilities fell way below par. However, nothing stopped her from singing, and while her audiences would fall about laughing at her renditions of operatic arias way beyond her capabilities, she had many fans and admirers, including Cole Porter and Enrico Caruso.

L-R: Paul Tomlinson as St. Clair Byfield and Mark Ewins as Cosme McMoon. Photo by Chris Clarke.

Singing to invited audiences at recitals and concerts, Florence enjoyed an illustrious career, defiantly turning her back on the harsh critiques at the time who branded her ‘The worst singer in the world.” And for this it is so understandable why she was also loved and admired by those close to her.

The Bear Pit’s production is directed by Phil Beeson, who also designed the set that takes us into the glamorous world of Florence Foster Jenkins (played brilliantly by Angela Minto). We are right there in her Manhatton apartment at the Hotel Seymour, where we also meet her lifelong friend, the currently ‘resting’ actor St. Clair Byfield (played with style and panache by Paul Tomlinson); also, Florence’s best friend Dorothy (Viv Tomlinson) – loyal to the very end – and her dog! (no spoilers but the dog gets an awful lot of laughs). We also meet Maria, the Spanish maid, played fabulously by Lynn Taylor. Maria shows her annoyance and contempt for one and all without a single understandable word being spoken – unless you understand Spanish. A very humorous performance by her.

Viv Tomlinson as Dorothy and Angela Minto as Florence. Photo Chris Clarke.

We also meet Cosme McMoon (Mark Ewins) a classical pianist who has come to try out for the position of Florence’s new concert pianist. Poor, mild mannered Cosme doesn’t quite know how to handle the larger-than-life Florence! But the ensuing relationship that develops between them is just lovely – oh yes, and very funny. An excellent performance by Mark Ewins, who seems so perfect for the role – almost as if he’d been plucked straight from a piano recital of the 1940s and transported to the Bear Pit.

There are some massive ‘laugh-out-loud’ moments throughout the play, as well as a script packed with more subtle humour.

Margot McCleary as Mrs Verrinder-Gedge and Angela Minto as Florence. Photo Chris Clarke.

As the story progresses, the scenes smoothly change to the Melotone Recording Studio as Florence and Cosme McMoon produce more music. Then the Ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Hotel with all its glamour – and drama.  Here we meet an extremely angry Mrs Verrinder Gedge (played wonderfully irately by Margot McCleary) who makes no bones about wanting Florence off the stage, never to sing again.

And the finale – the flower-bedecked Carnegie Hall, where the real Florence Foster Jenkins packed the hall to the rafters back in 1944. A finale that has you laughing and wiping a tear from your eye by the moving speech at the end by her pianist Cosme.

Viv Tomlinson as Dorothy and Paul Tomlinson as St Clair Byfield. Photo by Chris Clarke.

Everything about this play is a delight and holds you captivated - the characters, the script, the music and the gorgeous costumes and jewellery – well done everyone involved behind the scenes. Angela Minto as Florence Foster Jenkins is utterly brilliant, and while she may have discovered a whole range of ‘musical’ notes that have never been paired together before, she delivers them with such power and gusto that you’ll be applauding and throwing flowers onto the stage, just as people did back in the early 20th century.


If you haven’t already got your tickets, I suggest you do so soon!

Book on 0333 666 3366 or visit:


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