Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Debby Lennon Digs into Another Offbeat Character: Florence Foster Jenkins

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Debby Lennon Digs into Another Offbeat Character: Florence Foster Jenkins

Article excerpt

In the last couple of theater seasons, performer Debby Lennon's career has taken a turn for the ... peculiar.

And also for the very visible.

In July 2016, Lennon delivered a dazzling double performance in Max & Louie's production of "Grey Gardens," playing a grandiose grande dame in the first act and her emotionally disturbed, middle-age daughter in the second.

Singing in two different styles, moving in two different modes and limning two different women, Lennon's performance brought her the 2017 St. Louis Theater Circle Award for outstanding actress in a musical.

In June 2018, she followed up with her portrayal of a wife and mother struggling with bipolar disorder in Insight Theatre Company's production of "Next to Normal."

On Friday, Lennon adds a new character to her catalog of heroines with faulty connections to reality. She stars as Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy New York socialite who believed she had a beautiful operatic voice. She plays Jenkins a real woman and the subject of the eponymous 2016 movie starring Meryl Streep in Max & Louie's production of "Souvenir."

Because Jenkins had money, she was able to indulge her entirely imaginary talent. She performed in recitals attended by friends and ultimately booked herself into Carnegie Hall for a concert that sold out. The audience, however, thought the show was a comedy.

Written by Stephen Temperley, the play tells Jenkins' story variously hilarious and touching from the viewpoint of her longtime accompanist, Cosme McMoon, played here by Paul Cereghino. Sydnie Grosberg Ronga directs, and Teresa Doggett designed the lavish costumes that Jenkins favored.

Lennon draws a distinction between Jenkins and the truly disturbed characters she played in "Grey Gardens" and "Next to Normal." "Florence is steadfast in her belief in herself," explains Lennon, who lives in Valley Park with her husband, Dan Ayres. "For her, it was never a delusion.

"She never doubted her ability, and she lifted up everyone around her, including Cosme. I find her absolutely fascinating. And I love the chance to sing in such an offbeat way!"

She has sung in plenty of others. …

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