The show’s not over until the tone-deaf lady sings... badly!

Roly Taylor as Cosme, Rachel Thomas as Florence and Simon Parr as St Clair in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

Roly Taylor as Cosme, Rachel Thomas as Florence and Simon Parr as St Clair in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

John Davies

A heartwarming play for music-lovers and those who are tone-deaf alike opens in Welwyn Garden City next week.

Glorious! opens at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City next week Glorious! opens at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City next week

The next show at the Barn Theatre is Glorious!, a comedy by Peter Quilter.

Opening on Friday, October 27 and running until Saturday, November 4, the play is all about Florence Foster Jenkins, a woman who proved it is possible to be gloriously bad at something yet still be endearing to thousands.

She followed her dream – thought by most to be a delusion – of becoming a great soprano.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1868, Florence left home because her father, a wealthy Philadelphian lawyer, banker and local politician, refused to allow her to fulfil her ambition to sing in public.

Simon Parr as St Clair and Mary Goodfellow as Dorothy in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies] Simon Parr as St Clair and Mary Goodfellow as Dorothy in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

Maybe he knew something she didn’t, as eventually she was dubbed the ‘diva of din’.

Nevertheless, in 1940s New York she was going all out to achieve her ambition and people flocked to see her recitals – not always for the kindest of reasons.

Glorious! tells her story, complete with some truly off-key singing.

Maureen Lipman starred as Florence when the show premiered at London’s Duchess Theatre in 2005.

Simon Parr as St Clair, Sharon White as Mrs Verrinder-Gedge, Rachel Thomas as Florence, and Mary Goodfellow as Dorothy in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies] Simon Parr as St Clair, Sharon White as Mrs Verrinder-Gedge, Rachel Thomas as Florence, and Mary Goodfellow as Dorothy in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

She said then: “Glorious! has the cutting edge of a spoon – it’s delightful, it’s batty, it’s absurd and it involves the audience almost as if they were at a pantomime.”

Hannah Sayer, who has several successes directing at the Barn, is delighted to be leading the Barn’s show.

She had seen the recent film, starring Meryl Streep as Florence, which made her curious to see what the play was like.

“Reading this play on my train journey to work made me laugh out loud – the film misses out some comic gems.”

Sarah Doyle-Smith as Maria in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies] Sarah Doyle-Smith as Maria in Glorious! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City [Picture: John Davies]

Hannah added: “Florence succeeded as a person, if not as a singer, because she was sincere, generous and a loveable character.

“I hope our audiences will see past the awful singing and take to her as much as we have.”

Based on Florence’s real friends, other characters in the play weave a story of fellowship and good-heartedness as they support her at charity recitals, extravagant balls, bizarre recording sessions and Florence’s ultimate triumph at Carnegie Hall.

As happened in real life, they protect Florence from the worst of the jokes and reviews of her performances.

Rachel Thomas plays Florence and seems to be enjoying every minute of learning to sing again, but badly.

She has becoming a dab hand at the off-note, the warble and the sliding scale.

Rachel is aided and abetted by newcomer to the Barn Roly Taylor, who plays Cosme, her accompanist. Rachel knew of Roly’s musical skills and invited him to audition.

Hannah was delighted. “I didn’t want to use recorded music and knew it could be tricky to find someone to play the piano.

“Not only does Roly play really well, he can act – what a find!”

Audiences at the Barn will also meet Simon Parr, who will play Florence’s very English manager, St Clair, and Mary Goodfellow as Dorothy, whose ditzy but sweet-natured protectiveness of Florence shows true friendship.

Hannah added: “Florence’s attitude to life is still so liberating.

“People can identify with her sense that everyone can succeed, if they are determined enough.”

So it won’t be over at the Barn until the tone-deaf lady sings... and you may not even want her to stop!

Tickets cost £13, with evening performances at 8pm and a matinee on the second Saturday of the play’s run at 2.30pm.

• Tickets for Glorious! can be bought by telephone on 01707 324330, online at www.barntheatre.co.uk, or from the theatre box office on performance nights.

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