Words: Angela Ferguson. Photos: Mark Carline.
American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins had a dream – to sing at the legendary Carnegie Hall back in the heady days of 1940s New York. And the small matter of her not, actually, being able to sing did not get in the way of her achieving this dream.
Her extraordinary story, written here by Peter Quilter, was powerfully portrayed on stage at the Forum Studio Theatre by a talented cast and crew.
Tip Top Productions, including talented directors Mark Newman and Stuart Evans, presented a slick, enchanting and deeply moving performance. Lighting and sound from Mark Shenton and Alec Stokes also added to the magical atmosphere in this cosy and intimate space.
Foster Jenkins (Marian Newman) was part of the 1940s New York social scene, with friends in high places and a circle of adoring supportive friends who worked hard to try to protect her from any criticism of her singing abilities. Audience members were even vetted prior to being allowed to watch her perform.
Her pianist Cosme McMoon, played to great comic effect by Ryan Rothwell, also became part of her inner circle, along with her suave and charismatic partner St Clair, played to great effect by Richard Steventon. Rothwell was a master of expressing McMoon’s initial shock and concern at the prospect of working with Foster Jenkins through the merest raising of an eyebrow and other comical facial expressions.
Diva of din
Meanwhile, Marian Newman gave a sensitive and moving portrayal of the eccentric Foster Jenkins, once described as ‘the diva of din’ and ‘the world’s worst singer’. She brought an immense energy and a raw vulnerability to the role, as she tackled some challenging scenes, including recreating some of Foster Jenkins’s performances.
Foster Jenkins was a fascinating and hugely driven woman, with a passion for philanthropy. And her inheritance enabled her to pursue this through various fundraising events, raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process. Her wealth also enabled her to pursue her passion for singing and her dream of performing in front of the vast Carnegie Hall audience.
She was said to have bought sheer unadulterated joy into the lives of those she met. And so it was with great sadness that we were able to witness the challenges that Foster Jenkins ultimately faced, despite the best efforts of her protective inner circle. These included her adoring and eccentric friend Dorothy, brought to life on the stage by Tip Top stalwart Pippa Redmayne and her equally eccentric and bolshy Mexican maid Maria, played to great comic effect by Tip Top newcomer Charlie Nunez.
Another performance which must be mentioned is Sally Dillon, who commands the stage in her role as the voice of dissent, the extremely vocal socialite Mrs Verrinder-Gedge, who most vehemently does not want Foster Jenkins to perform ever again.
And mention must also be made of a surprise performance from the multi-talented stage manager and props and publicity officer, Paul Crofts, who has a brief role as an exasperated Melotone Recording Studio executive. Paul excelled in these roles, including sourcing an array of wonderful props such as copies of original record labels and posters from that era, all of which helped bring the story to life and make magic on the Forum Studio Theatre stage.
Glorious really is a fitting description for this enchanting production. Bravo to the cast and crew of Tip Top Productions for staging yet another powerful production that will live on in the memories of Tip Top and audience members alike. We cannot wait to see what Tip Top do next.
We give Glorious a suitably diva-esque mark of five stars.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
To find out more about Tip Top Productions and their forthcoming shows, head over to tiptopproductions.co.uk.