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Souvenir



 
Souvenir, a play written by Stephen Temperley, is about Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite from New York who had an unprecedented musical career despite the fact that she was totally tone deaf. Needless to say, as the lady sang, she must have heard something in her head that was absolutely contrary to what came out of her voice box. However, she was determined to have others hear her “gifted” voice and she hired an accompanist to work with her in order to continue to present recitals for her friends. The recitals were held annually in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where Jenkins resided.

That was the beginning of Florence Foster Jenkins career and the story of it is depicted in this production by the gentleman she hired as her pianist, Cosme McMoon (Brent Schindele). When Cosme is invited by Jenkins to discuss being her accompanist, the year is 1932 and he is in need of a job. But the instant he begins to play the piano and the first notes of her voice crash in his ears, he is taken aback. After considerable discussion, (trying to get out of her hiring him), he nevertheless takes the job for lack of any other available position at the time. Ms Jenkins, a matronly well-dressed lady, is never aware that the sounds she makes when she sings are a far-cry from what should be heard. But her audiences love her, and as word gets around about her recitals and she becomes more and more famous, far-be-it for Cosme to try and convince her that she is tone-deaf. As he continues to work with her, the two of them form a “duet” of warmth and caring. Jenkins is finally convinced to perform a recital in Carnegie Hall where she not only packs the house, but thousands are turned away. And Cosme ends up working with Jenkins for twelve years.

Shindele’s performance is superb; he brings a true feeling of sensitivity to the role of Cosme, and proves his talent on the piano as well. His singing voice is pleasant, too. But the real charmer and tour de force is Constance Hauman as Florence Foster Jenkins. Hauman is a trained opera singer, and it takes someone like her with a flair for comedy and an unusual ability to be able to sing such offensive tones and still bring so much enjoyment to her audience. Fortunately, we are given the opportunity to hear what a fine singer she truly is.

Souvenir is playing at the Falcon Theatre, located at 4252 Riverside Drive in Burbank. It plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m., through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. For tickets, call the Theatre Box Office at (828) 955-8101. For further information, log on at www.FalconTheatre.com.