GLORIOUS! THE TRUE STORY OF FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, THE WORST SINGER IN THE WORLD
Through Sunday, August 6
Theatre in the Park, Raleigh
Almost any entertainer who plays birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and weddings will tell you (after a couple of drinks, at least) that most gigs, to various degrees, are performed en masque. Cultivating a pleasant poker face and a taste for irony are often as crucial to the professional performer as are artistic and technical prowess.
That’s why we keep looking to Brian Westbrook, who plays Florence Foster Jenkins’s piano accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, in Glorious! at Theatre in the Park. As in the region’s previous two theatrical iterations of the story (Souvenir from Ghost & Spice in 2009 and from Theatre Raleigh in 2013), McMoon seems to be the only one onstage who is aware that the New York society matron and self-styled coloratura soprano is actually a total washout as an opera singer. As always, the question remains: How long can he possibly keep a straight face at his employer’s incompetence?
Under Ira David Wood IV’s direction, the sophistication and warmth that veteran actor and vocal coach Alison Lawrence brings to the deluded diva is abetted by Vicki Olson’s droll costumes and props. In supporting roles, Ian Bowater convinces as St. Clair, a louche British expat and occasional actor. Judie Brown amuses as Dorothy, a designer and would-be man-eater. But the night is Westbrook’s, as his character walks a razor’s edge through a recording session and concerts at the Ritz-Carlton and Carnegie Hall.
Playwright Peter Quilter fleshes out more of Jenkins’s world and McMoon’s character than Stephen Temperley’s earlier effortperhaps too much, with scenes that belabor this crew’s eccentricities. Editing them, along with lengthy video montages, slow transitions, and needlessly extended demonstrations of Jenkins’s atonality, would have made for a production more svelte than the current two-and-a-half-hour version.