note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark
Musical Direction by Will McGarrahan
Produced by Rebecca Curtiss
Set Design by Skip Curtiss
Lighting Design by Robert Cordella
Costume Design by David Costa-Cabral
Wigs Designed & Supplied by Jason Allen
Production Stage Manager Nerys Powell
Cosme McMoon............Will McGarrahan
Florence Foster Jenkins...Leigh Barrett
The Lyric Stage has a standing-o hit in Stephen Temperley's "fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins." This is a must-see triumph by everyone connected with it, a loving re-creation and justification of the career of "the diva of din". But the show allows me to use one of my fondly favorite critical comments: it stars Will McGarrahan in a minor role.
Will McGarrahan is, hands-down and with lots of practice, the best Supporting Actor in Boston (Remember him playing "everyone else" in DIRTY BLONDE, and Michael Bennett in A CLASS ACT?), and as the "second-banana" in this two-character play he offers a textbook-demonstration of how to do what he always does so well. He's not just the solid line of reality against which the star bounces (And the star is the incomparable Leigh Barrett.); he doesn't just feed her the straight-lines, or react for the audience at her outrageous misunderstanding of situations; in a masterful sense, it's his job to set up the entire situation, create the background, and then not only to introduce the lead, but to make the entire audience see her shine. And when she does, he's there to increase the volume. It's the job of a Support to make everyone Else on stage look great. And Will McGarrahan is the best in the business.
Don't misunderstand: he isn't "upstaging" his partner up there; the Support never gets in the way, and it's never really His play. But my dictionary says "adjective: furnishing support and encouragement " and, with Will there onstage the show isn't a mere monologue. It's a play.
Leigh Barrett's "Lady Flo" was a rich society music-lover who for six years sang benefit-concerts in support of charities, and her eccentric singing style created such a following that her Carnegie-Hall debut (at 78!) sold out all 3,000 seats in two hours disappointing 2,000 more. She sang with conviction and verve, but --- well --- badly. (All of Boston will be fighting for tickets to watch the city's reigning musical star sing, so amazingly, so totally off-key and off-tempo!)
But author Stephen Temperley takes on, quite successfully, the problem of finding in this energetic performer's life the original bed-rock meaning of "lover" embedded in the word "amateur". That's why, in their many rehearsal-conversations, and in his commentaries, McGarrahan's accompaning-pianist stands in loving awe of her aspirations more than her tones, not her voice, but her soul.
As I said, "a must-see triumph by everyone connected with it."
( a k a larry stark )