Souvenir

A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins
Donald Corren and Judy Kaye perform the Carnegie Hall scene. Lyceum Theater.

A surprisingly affecting comedy. A sweet love letter of a play. A portrait of a lady who becaeme a legend for singing badly. The redoubtable Judy Kaye and the excellent Donald Corren are lovely company.

 

Ben Brantley, New York Times.

Directed by Vivian Matalon.

Designed by R. Michael Miller

Costumes by Tracy Christensen

Lighting by Ann Wrightson

Sound by David Budries

Musical supervisor Tom Helm

... Souvenir offers another suggestion: that hers was an art new to itself, an aesthetic that asks us to return the word “awe” to “awfulness”. We may laugh at her singing, but we are also awed by it. We hold our breath as Jenkins’s voice steps confidently off the edge, leaving self-preservation behind and falling into a chasm of disaster of which she is evidently unaware. Souvenir is right. Her art was like no other.

   

Sunday New York Times

In less gifted hands, Souvenir… could have been a crude joke. Instead, with a script by Stephen Temperley and superlative performances by Judy Kaye as Jenkins and Donald Corren as her accompanist – the wonderfully named Cosme McMoon – it makes hilarious and deeply touching theater out of something inherently ridiculous. Elegantly designed, beautifully directed, Souvenir is a kind of loony triumph.

   

   NY Daily News.

As in the play’s 2004 premiere at the York Theatre Company, Jenkins is played by the extraordinary Judy Kaye, who is once again astonishing: hilarious in her deadpan emulations of Jenkins’s hideous squeaking, and then—when Temperley cleverly turns his mirror on the audience—suddenly and deeply poignant. And Donald Corren’s dapperly ironic performance as Jenkins’s accompanist, Cosme McMoon, throws new light on everything around him. Directed with forceful clarity by Vivian Matalon, Souvenir is a memorable illustration of the real limits of self-perception, and of the purely theatrical magic that can turn the tinniest ear to gold.

   

   Time Out: New York 

Temperley recognizes something poignantly universal in Jenkins’ delusion—the fantasy of artistic triumph that lies behind all the screenplays in desk drawers and the impromptu karaoke numbers performed at high speeds on the freeway. This is a must-see for anyone who’s ever delivered an Oscar speech to the bathroom mirror.

Vivian Matalon’s production never lets the funny business get too far ahead of the feeling. That is quite a feat. Those first mangled notes are hard to recover from. The hilarity quickly gives way, however, to a psychological curiosity that’s delicately explored by two actors beautifully committed to making unbeautiful music together.

… a superbly dry Donald Corren… Judy Kaye delivers the cacophony at full farcical blast yet never loses sight of her character’s tone-deaf innocence.

 

    L.A. Times: Ovation Production of the Year Award 

FFJ    Few sopranos are equipped to tackle the Queen of the Night. As you’re no doubt aware, the aria’s range is extensive. I had my doubts. One is only human after all. (Laughs. Stops herself abruptly) However — and this is almost too uncanny — the next day — the very next day, Mr. McMoon! — while riding in a taxicab on Lexington, I found myself in a slight collision. The f above c burst from me spontaneously.

McM    (Bewildered) The f above c?

FFJ    Passersby were enraptured, amazed. I stepped from the wreckage a new woman. 

FFJ: Since I was a girl, you know, I’ve dreamed of such a night. And now it’s gone. It was ahead of me. It was there to be hoped for. But now it’s over. It’s in the past. A memory. If only we could live in the music forever, Cosme. If only it could go on and on. But of course it can’t. Of course it has to end. 

Some of the songs of Souvenir.

Some, from among the many foreign productions, left to right: Desirée Nick, Berlin and Vienna; Agnès Bové and Grégori Baquet, Paris, Avignon Festival and tour;  Lise-Lotte Nielsen and Henrik Koefoed, Hjorring and Copenhagen, with the Danish Royal Opera.