“A sweet love letter of a play!” — NY Times
“Devastating and devastatingly funny.” – The Village Voice
A FANTASIA ON THE LIFE OF FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
by Stephen Temperley
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music Director, Will McGarrahan
October 20 — November 19, 2017
Spiro Veloudos remounts one of his favorite productions in celebration of his 20 years as Producing Artistic Director. Souvenir is an affectionate portrait of Florence Foster Jenkins, one of the finest coloratura sopranos in history — but, alas, only in her own mind! Despite being called “majestically awful,” her concerts in the 1930s and ’40s, including a legendary appearance at Carnegie Hall, were not only sold-out but were attended by the crème de la crème of Manhattan society. Told affectionately through the eyes of her longtime accompanist Cosmé McMoon, Souvenir is the sweet, inspiring, hilarious portrait of a passionate music lover who believed that “what matters most is the music you hear in your head.”
Leigh Barrett*, Will McGarrahan*
“A brilliant performance by Leigh Barrett!” — Boston Globe
“Will McGarrahan is the best!” — Theater Mirror
Scenic Design, Charles “Skip” Curtiss
Costume Design, Gail Astrid Buckley**
Lighting Design, Chris Hudacs
Sound Design, David Wilson**
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) ** United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829
Leigh Barrett* Florence Foster Jenkins
Will McGarrahan* Cosmé McMoon
WHEN: October 20 – November 19, 2017
Wednesdays, Thursdays – 7:30pm
Wednesday matinees – 2pm, October 25 and November 8
Fridays – 8pm
Saturdays – 3pm & 8pm
Sundays – 3pm
Post-show Q&A with the artists: October 22 and November 5, after the 3pm performance
WHERE: The Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA 02116
TICKETS: Start at $25
Seniors – $10 off regular price
Student rush – $10
Group rates available
Leigh Barrett* (Florence) was seen just last month as Rose in Gypsy. Other Lyric Stage credits include Company, Sondheim on Sondheim, City of Angels, Grey Gardens, Souvenir, Nicholas Nickelby, Big River, Animal Crackers, Follies, A Little Night Music, Mikado, Nuncrackers, and Sunday in the Park with George. Other area credits include Closer Than Ever, Ragtime, Threepenny Opera, Indulgences, Side by Side by Sondheim, The World Goes ‘Round, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and Wild Party (New Rep), Passion, Great American Trailer Park Musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Drowsy Chaperone, Elegies, A Class Act, Adding Machine (SpeakEasy Stage), Marry Me a Little, Jacques Brel (Gloucester Stage), Alice, Sound of Music (Wheelock Family Theater), Company (Moonbox Productions), Gypsy, Picnic, John & Jen, You Never Know, Pal Joey (Stoneham Theatre), A Christmas Carol, Singing in the Rain, and Sweeney Todd (North Shore Music Theatre), Mud Blue Sky (Bridge Rep), and Car Talk, the Musical! (Central Square Theater). She is the proud recipient of two Elliot Norton Awards and two IRNE Awards. She is an independent vocal/acting coach in Reading. Love to HB and my boys Nick and Matt! LeighBarrett.com
Will McGarrahan* (Cosmé McMoon) returns to the Lyric Stage where he performed in Stage Kiss, Company, Peter and the Starcatcher, Light Up the Sky, Into the Woods, Death of a Salesman, Becky’s New Car, The Chosen, The Temperamentals, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Grey Gardens, November, Souvenir, and Dirty Blonde. Other local credits include The Bridges of Madison County, Casa Valentina, Big Fish, Far from Heaven, Next Fall, The Drowsy Chaperone, Reckless, Some Men, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Five By Tenn, Company, The Last Sunday in June, Elegies: A Song Cycle, Ruthless!, A Class Act, A New Brain (SpeakEasy Stage), Mame (Stoneham Theater), A Raisin in the Sun (Huntington Theatre), The Wind in the Willows and Happy Days (Gloucester Stage); Nine Circles (Publick Theatre and Gloucester Stage), The Moon For The Misbegotten, Buried Child (Nora Theater), and The Wrestling Patient (SpeakEasy Stage/Boston Playwrights/40 Magnolias). Will worked as an actor, singer, and pianist for many years in Seattle before moving to Boston’s South End.
Spiro Veloudos (Director, Producing Artistic Director), now celebrating his 20th season as Producing Artistic Director of the Lyric Stage, directed Company and Camelot last season. In previous seasons, he directed Sondheim by Sondheim, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sweeney Todd, City of Angels, Into the Woods (Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards for Best Director, Best Musical, and Best Ensemble), One Man, Two Guvnors, Death of a Salesman (IRNE Award for Best Play),The Mikado, 33 Variations, On the Town, Avenue Q (Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Ensemble, five IRNE Awards including Best Musical and Best Director), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Elliot Norton Award for Best Production and Best Director, five IRNE Awards including Best Director), Big River, Superior Donuts, Animal Crackers, Blithe Spirit, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, and Kiss Me, Kate. Spiro received the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from Salem State College. He was the recipient of the 2006 Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. During his tenure, the Lyric Stage has earned numerous awards and honors including Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Production (Nicholas Nickleby, Speech & Debate, Miss Witherspoon, The Old Settler), and Outstanding Musical Production (Sunday in the Park with George); IRNE Awards for Outstanding Production (Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Settler, Glengarry Glen Ross), and Outstanding Musical Production (Grey Gardens, Urinetown: The Musical, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George). His numerous directing credits at the Lyric Stage include A Little Night Music (IRNE Award for Direction), Glengarry Glen Ross (IRNE Award), Sunday in the Park with George (Best of the Year in Boston’s Globe, Herald, and Phoenix; Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for direction), Assassins (Best Production of 1998: The Boston Globe), Lost in Yonkers, Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story (Elliot Norton Award, along with Assassins), and Speed-the-Plow (Elliot Norton for Outstanding Production). Mr. Veloudos received StageSource’s Theatre Hero Award (2003) and was named Best Artistic Director by Boston Magazine in 1999. He serves as the president for the Producers’ Association of New England Area Theatres, and is adjunct faculty in Performing Arts at Emerson College.
Gail Astrid Buckley** (Costume Design) is happy to return to Lyric having designed many productions including Light Up the Sky and Sondheim on Sondheim. Recent designs include, The Marriage of Figaro for the Boston Lyric Opera, The Empaths for Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater ; and the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at SpeakEasy Stage. Upcoming work includes the 10 th year anniversary of A Christmas Carol at the Hanover Theater, the opera Dead Man Walking for Boston Conservatory, and She Loves Me at the Stoneham Theatre. Gail has received two Elliot Norton Awards and two IRNE Awards for Costume Design. Gail is a proud member of United Scenic Artists Local 829.
Chris Hudacs (Lighting Design) returns to Lyric Stage, having previously designed Stage Kiss, Intimate Apparel, and Sondheim on Sondheim. Chris has designed lights for Boston Lyric Opera, Pilobolus Dance Theater, The ART/MXAT Institute, New England Conservatory, Sylvain Emard’s “Le Grand Continental” (Celebrity Series of Boston), Pickleshoes Family Theater, Tiffany Mills Company (NYC), Gallim Dance (NYC), he York Theatre (NYC), Toy Box Theatre (NYC), Nancy Meehan Dance (NYC), Paula Josa-Jones (MA), Trinity College (Hartford, CT), Rites & Reason Theatre (Brown University) and many others. In addition, Chris has toured as a Production Manager/Technical Director with Pilobolus, Shen Wei Dance Arts, David Dorfman Dance, Doug Varone and Dancers, and Stephen Petronio Dance Company. WhodaxLD.com
David Wilson returns to the Lyric Stage having previously designed City of Angels and Barbecue. He has designed lighting or sound for over 350 productions of opera, theater, concert and dance. He has served on the faculty of Brandeis University, heading the graduate program in sound design, and has designed and taught at Boston College, Boston Conservatory of Music, Bowdoin, Emerson, Harvard, New England Conservatory, Tufts, Suffolk and UMASS-Lowell. His designs for theater at other companies include Boston Playwrights, Central City Opera, Company One, Dibble Dance, Gloucester Stage, Merrimack Rep, Moonbox, New Rep, Nora, North Shore Music Theater, Stoneham, Shakespeare and Co, WHAT and Wheelock Family Theater. Recent designs include sound and music for The Comedy of Errors at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (Elliot Norton Award); Edward II at Actors Shakespeare Project (Elliot Norton Award). dw-design.com
Diane McLean* (Production Stage Manager) returns to the Lyric Stage having been PSM for Barbecue, Warrior Class, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? last season. She has also stage managed at Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Hartford Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, The Kennedy Center, and was resident stage manager at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, NY. Diane received her M.F.A. in Stage Management at Boston University. Love to H and C
Geena M. Forristall (Assistant Stage Manager) returns to Lyric Stage after previously working on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? last season. Select credits include: Julius Caesar, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Tempest, Cymbeline (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), The Weird (Off The Grid Theatre Company), Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Company One), The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet (Bay Colony Shakespeare Company), and Sleep No More (Punchdrunk NYC/Emursive). She is also the production stage manager for the international tour of Kultar’s Mime, a devised play that blends painting, poetry, theatre, and music to explore the repetition of violence, the exploitation of minorities, and the corruption of politics. Geena holds a BFA in Theatre Arts Production from Hofstra University.www.gmforristall.com
Joshua Shelor (Assistant to the Director) is excited to join the Lyric Stage legacy with this production. Previous work includes When January Feels Like Summer(Underground Railway Theatre), Gentle Hands (Furnace Fringe Festival), The Importance of Chastity (Emerson Shakespeare Society), and American Idiot (Musical Theatre Society of Emerson College). Mr. Shelor is a recent graduate of Emerson College, where he received a BFA in Theatre and Performance. He wants to thank Spiro Veloudos for letting him have a voice in Souvenir, and to his family for letting him pursue his dreams.
About Author, Stephen Temperley
Born in London, Stephen Temperley first came to the U.S. as a teenager. He acted in several plays for the Public Theatre before returning to London. There he performed in the West End, on television and in repertory. Since returning to the U.S. he has worked extensively in regional theatres and stock, on Broadway (the original company of Crazy for You) and off Broadway (Up Against It) at The Public. The first of his plays to be produced was Beside the Seaside at the Hudson Guild. Plays that followed include Money/Mercy at the Chelsea Theatre Center (Mercy was later seen at the first HBO New Writers Workshop in Los Angeles) and Dance With Me, first seen at the 18th Street Theatre and then at Centenary Stage. Workshops include That Kind Of Woman for Dodger Productions and In the Country of the Free for the Mint. He made an appearance at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Amadeus in 2006 and premiered his play The Pilgrim Papers, directed by Vivian Matalon, in July at the same festival. Souvenir also debuted at the Berkshire Theatre Festival before it played Broadway.
About Florence Foster Jenkins
Born in 1868 Florence Foster Jenkins was the daughter of Charles Dorrance Foster, a banker and member of the Pennsylvania legislature. Charles Foster instilled a deep passion for music in his daughter at a young age. She started out a piano player, but an arm injury shifted her attention to singing. When her father would not allow her to pursue her dream of studying and performing music, Florence eloped with Dr. Thomas Jenkins. Together, they settled in Philadelphia. The couple was divorced in 1902 and Florence subsequently moved to New York City. After her father’s death in 1909, Florence used her inheritance to enhance her city life. In addition, she finally began to pursue her passion for music and performing.
As portrayed in Stephen Temperley’s “fantasia” on her life, the majority of her performing career consisted of annual benefit recitals and small concerts given for the numerous charities she supported. Audiences were limited by the capacity of the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom, her preferred venue. Early patrons were friends and acquaintances, but as word spread about her “talent,” strangers, as well as the crème de la crème of New York Society came, too. Fans included Cole Porter (who wrote a song for Florence), Beatrice Lillie and Thomas Beecham, who played her songs on the British radio.
Laughter in the audience was contagious; audience members would stuff their mouths with their handkerchiefs to keep from laughing. “At that time, Frank Sinatra had started to sing, and the teenagers used to faint during his notes and scream. She thought she was producing the same kind of an effect, and when these salvos of applause came, she took them as great marks of approval,” observed Cosmé McMoon, her talented piano accompanist at all performances. “She would pause altogether and bow, many times, and then resume the song.”
In 1944, Florence succumbed to the pressure of her admirers and announced she would give a concert at Carnegie Hall. One of the most important music venues in the world, musical luminaries Duke Ellington and Leonard Bernstein made their first appearances there just one year earlier. Within weeks of her announcement, all 3,000 tickets to Florence’s October 25 debut were sold and 2,000 ticket-seekers were left disappointed. On November 26, just one month after her performance, Florence died of a sudden heart attack. Some say that the stress of the performance at Carnegie Hall at her age led to her decline in health and death. She was 76.
— Meg Cook and Rebecca Curtiss
About Cosmé McMoon
Not much is known about Cosmé McMoon, Florence Foster Jenkins’ long-time accompanist. The only press notices that exist for him outside of his mentions with Jenkins are a short, lukewarm review of a solo piano recital he performed in 1936 and his obituary, neither of which tell the same story. He was born in 1901, in either Mexico or Texas to parents of Mexican and Irish descent, as Cosmé McMunn, shifting the spelling of his last name when he began his career as a concert pianist. The New York Times offered weak praise of his solo recital writing that while “he did not fail to catch the spirit of the Debussy “Toccata”, “McMoon’s performance of Beethoven’s sonata was perhaps too ambitious an undertaking.” Jenkins hired McMoon in the early 1930s as her accompanist, having met him socially several times through her women’s clubs music programs. He composed songs for Ms. Jenkins including “Serenata Mexicano” and “The Ant and the Grasshopper”. He accompanied Jenkins at her ill-fated Carnegie Hall concert and on several of her recordings, where you can hear him adjusting his playing to accommodate the singer’s short-comings. Jenkins and McMoon parted only when she passed away in 1944, just one month after her Carnegie Hall appearance. McMoon died in New York in 1980, at the age of 79, when The Boston Globe called him a “man of miracles.”