GLORIOUS by Peter Quilter, directed by Christopher Newton (CanStage). At Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). To December 16. $20-$95, Monday pwyc, some rush. 416-368-3110. See Continuing, page 95. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Off-key diva Florence Foster Jenkins's voice wobbled as she warbled - she was lucky when she hit the proper note - but her heart was always on pitch.
Similarly, Glorious, Peter Quilter's comedy about the American singer, is a flawed, sometimes slight piece, but with Nicola Cavendish in the lead role, the CanStage production is often a theatrical treat.
Left money by her banker father, Jenkins indulged her musical "talent" at women's clubs and even Carnegie Hall, though certain concertgoers laughed uproariously at her off-key vocal efforts. But her belief in herself gave courage to others to follow their own dreams.
The play's first half is broad comedy with little emotional resonance, but in the second, Cavendish, under Christopher Newton's direction, retains the laughs while making Jenkins an emotionally endearing figure. She's clearly a woman with a zest for music and for life and she spreads that energy to anyone who'll feel it.
The audience sides with her. When a musical bluestocking (Heather Lea MacCallum) castigates Jenkins, viewers join in with the recorded boos, even though the singing criticism is valid.
Actually, if there's a flaw in the performance, it's that Cavendish, despite aiming for high Q above P, hits too many right notes.
Jonathan Monro brings a sweet charm and fine musicality to Cosmé McMoon, Jenkins's gay accompanist, initially shocked by what he hears but later a fan of the uninhibited singer.
Maria Vacratsis's Mexican maid and Dixie Seatle's effusive Dorothy, a tipsy friend whose clothes are as outrageous as Jenkins's voice, bring humour to their larger-than-life roles - that's how the parts are written. There's little flesh, though, on Christopher Hunt's St. Clair, Jenkins's womanizing boyfriend, and a running gag about Dorothy's dog quickly becomes silly.
But the clear focus of the show is the infectious Cavendish, whose Jenkins is an indomitable force of nature, deluded about her vocal talent but not about her embrace of life.