Donald Corren and Judy Kaye at the Lyceum Theatre
The Story of the Play
Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy society woman active in New York in the 1930s and ‘40s, believed herself to be a great coloratura soprano. In reality she couldn’t sing two consecutive notes in tune.
Undeterred by family criticism she began to give recitals for her large circle of friends in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton where she lived. Word of the recitals soon spread to the general public and very soon she was packing the ballroom. Despite all the laughter and jeers, the shrieks and howls of derision, she believed the audience was genuinely moved by her singing. A belief that took her all the way to Carnegie Hall for a sold-out concert in 1944, an event that is still talked about.
Over the years, Mrs. Jenkins has become a figure of fun, a camp whose records are played at parties to be laughed at. Souvenir takes a different approach, seeing Mrs. Jenkins through the eyes of her reluctant accompanist, Cosme McMoon.
When they first meet he regards her as a convenient, if embarrassing, way to pay the rent, worrying what his friends will say. As he comes to know her, however, her unshakable faith in herself and in the music she loves, makes him want to protect her from the laughter he hears when she sings, laughter to which she remains oblivious — till the evening she steps out onto the stage of Carnegie Hall.
When at last she hears the laugher, it is Cosme who rescues her from doubt, helping her to maintain her delusions, staying true to the beautiful music she hears in her head, the music that, in the play’s final moments, the audience hears too.