By Sue Tiffin
Published March 5 2019
At the end of March Haliburton audiences will have the chance to see why actors performing in Glorious! The True Story of Florence Foster Jenkins the Worst Singer in the World deserve awards in the art of keeping a straight face.
The Highlands Little Theatre show directed by Jack Brezina and Curtis Eastmure comes to the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion from March 27 to 30. It tells the story of Florence Foster Jenkins.
“[She] was a real person who lived in New York in the 1940s and she loved to sing” said HLT’s Amy Brohm. “She was not very good at it. But she loved it. Because she had money and was involved in a lot of committees they would throw these concerts where she would sing. She loved opera and she loved making her own costumes so she would come out in her own costumes in each scene. She did have her core supporters who encouraged her so this play is sort of about that little group of core people.”
The cast of the comedy includes Rita Jackson as Florence Foster Jenkins and Rita’s real-life husband John as her on-stage husband St. Clair Bayfield as well.
“Some people who know Rita know that she’s actually a very talented singer” said Brohm. “In the play she sings as Florence quite badly but in a very funny way. We’ve found the perfect person in Rita. She’s just so good. There is lots of music that will screech through. Florence sings during it so there’s a lot of music in it … unfortunately it’s Florence so it’s not the greatest singing but it’s funny.”
Florence’s accompanist is played by Chris Chumbley.
“He plays the character that … everyone else is always fawning over Florence” said Brohm. “He comes in you can tell he knows but he needs the gig right?”
Florence’s good friend Dorothy is played by Evelyn Manley her Spanish-speaking maid Maria is played by Ruth Carter and Kate Butler plays Mrs. Verrinder-Gedge who doesn’t approve of Florence’s singing and is rather grouchy. Bill Gliddon is assisting with musical accompaniment.
“[Rehearsals are] going amazingly well” said Brohm. “The cast of six people they’ve just taken on these roles. We rehearse on Mondays and I’ve come to the point where I don’t call them by their real names anymore I just call them by character names.”
Brohm said people will definitely come out of the play having enjoyed the show.
“There’s one scene we’ve done it several times now” said Brohm. “We did it the other day not because they needed the practice but just because we like watching it. It’s so funny. The actors are actually having a hard time keeping a straight face in it. They’re trying to be serious and we’re on the floor laughing. Normally when you do a play you’ve heard the joke so many times you’re like whatever it doesn’t register anymore but we can’t help ourselves from laughing.”
The quality of the play and the performances has made leaving the house for rehearsals even in the winter fun said Brohm.
“The other night Chris actually had to walk out of the scene because he was crying laughing” she said. “Because of Ruth in the one scene she literally steals the show. Every time she does it even though we know it’s coming we die laughing.”
The costumes for the play are being worked on by a team that includes Sue Vorvis Lauren Forbes and Gill Stephens and Brohm said there are both feathers and paper mache involved.
Though the play is filled with humour it shares an important message along the way.
“My favourite quote from Florence is that ‘I’m aware that there are people who say I cannot sing but there is no one who can say I did not sing’” said Brohm. “That’s kind of the take on it. By the end of it I feel you go girl. Living your dreams no matter what life throws at you.”
Glorious! The True Story of Florence Foster Jenkins the Worst Singer in the World takes place at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion in Haliburton on March 27 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) and on March 30 at 2 p.m. (doors open at 1:30 p.m.) Assigned seating is in place and tickets are available at Minden Pharmasave or Cranberry Cottage in Haliburton.