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 became a legend for singing badly. The redoubtable Judy Kaye and the excellent Donald Corren are lovely company.

Ben Brantley, 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.

The funniest show on Broadway since The Producers.

Jeffrey Lyons, WNBC – TV

Temperley’s play is explosively funny yet compassionate, and director Vivian Matalon makes sure this production — if not Jenkins — hits all the right notes.

Variety, L.A.

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

… 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

A must-see for anyone who’s ever delivered an Oscar speech to the bathroom mirror.

L.A. Times

… go laugh to your heart’s content. There weren’t many voices as bad as Jenkins’s. There aren’t many theatrical experiences as good as ”Souvenir”.

Boston Globe

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 that is remembered to this day by those who witnessed it.

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 when they see him playing for such a terrible singer. As he comes to know her, however, her unshakable faith in herself and in the music she loves, makes him determined 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 too hears the audience laughing it is Cosme who rescues her from doubt, helping her  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.

Since its initial off-Broadway production, Souvenir has become one of the most produced plays in the US and an international hit.

Published by Dramatists' Play Service

Background notes, history of the production, foreign productions, and music.