Hearing is believing.
The true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world that forms the basis of Glorious! running at the Chemainus Theatre from Sept. 14 through Oct. 6, is intriguing in so many ways.
None of the greatest athletes, scientists, actresses and actors or visionaries ever succeeded without failing first. In Jenkins’ case, her soprano vocals never became polished but the pure joy she evoked from performing captivated audiences, even if the sound was rather ear-shrieking.
Jenkins was an amateur singer and socialite during the Second World War who was absolutely convinced of her own talents. She claimed to have been inspired to sing when famed Italian lyrical tenor Enrico Caruso said he’d “never heard anything like it,” following one of her performances.
Jenkins’ story inspires us to pursue our dreams as the path to genuine personal happiness, no matter what outside forces might be at work against it.
Actress Beverley Elliott, part of the Elliott & Elliott combination with Elliott Loran as Cosme McMoon that forms two-thirds of the cast, couldn’t sign up fast enough to portray Jenkins.
“I think it’s the role of a lifetime to be allowed to have this much fun and be so over-the-top is fabulous,” she said.
“Tapping into that level of classical enthusiasm and belief beyond do what you love in spite of what people are saying, it’s great to have that running through my veins.”
Elliott has numerous film and TV credits, including the role of Granny in Once Upon A Time. She’s written music, performed in bands and done it all theatrically.
“As an artist, you have to say ‘yes’ when the phone rings,” she quipped.
Kathryn Kerbes is the other member of the cast in three roles as Dorothy, Maria and Mrs. Verrinder-Gedge in this three-person version of Glorious! There’s also a six-character show that’s slightly different.
And, yes, Elliott knows there’s always high expectations when you’re doing a character that’s been portrayed by Meryl Streep on film.
“I had seen the movie beforehand,” Elliott said. “The movie’s very, very different.
“You still get the essence of Florence’s impact on the world. It’s a bit of a different pathway to get there.
“And nobody can do Meryl Streep. I put that card away. This is a different Florence, but still naive to what people are saying.”
“There’s something immensely satisfying about watching someone dare to dream big, then actually follow through and achieve those lofty ambitions,” noted director Ian Farthing. “And no one could dream bigger than Florence.”
Some may have laughed at her, but Farthing found it hard to do so because her passion was not coming from ego or self-aggrandizement, but from a place of love.
Elliott has enjoyed the great chemistry within the cast and her close affiliation with the other Elliott – Elliott Loran.
“There’s been all kinds of work happening,” she said. “We had a speech coach come in.”
What emerges from her, Elliott added, “it’s like my fake operatic voice.”
This is her first time performing at the Chemainus Theatre and, in fact, she hadn’t been in the building till the cast interview and photo session Sept. 5. Elliott’s loving the atmosphere and looking forward to the opening of the show.
“Everyone here is great. I love the enthusiasm for theatre in this town. It’s an artistic bouquet of flowers. I’ve fallen in love with it.”