Souvenir
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A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins

by Stephen Temperley
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music direction by Will McGarrahan

Featuring Leigh Barrett & Will McGarrahan recreating their acclaimed performances.

Season Sponsored by Lee & Diana Humphrey and Bank of America

Production Sponsored by Liz & Paul Kastner
Director Spiro Veloudos sponsored by Mary K. Eliot
Leigh Barrett sponsored by Mary Shaw
Will McGarrahan sponsored by Jon-Daniel Durbin

Running time:   2 hours with one intermission.

Box Office: 617-585-5678 | boxoffice@lyricstage.com
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Summary

Spiro Veloudos is thrilled to be able to remount 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 cr√®me de la cr√®me of Manhattan society. Told affectionately through the eyes of her longtime accompanist Cosme 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.” ¬†¬†Featuring Leigh Barrett & Will McGarrahan recreating their acclaimed performances.

‚ÄúA brilliant performance by Leigh Barrett!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ Boston Globe ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†‚ÄúWill McGarrahan is the best!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ Theater Mirror

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Music

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Press & Reviews

“Her costumes were among the wildest ever to grace a stage: audience favourites included her giant pair of wings (the ‚ÄúAngel of Inspiration‚ÄĚ) and a tent-like 18th-century ball gown. She would often accessorise her ensembles with a parasol that she would enthusiastically twirl, or ostrich feathers with which she fanned herself.”

10 reasons we love Florence Foster Jenkins¬†¬† ‚ÄĒThe Telegraph

“Everyone, from the stars to director Veloudos to costume designer Gail Astrid Buckley, seems to be having a grand time in ‚ÄúSouvenir.‚Äô‚Äô Buckley has done outstanding work in creating an array of lavishly eye-popping outfits for Barrett‚Äôs Florence”

An exquisite duet in Lyric Stage‚Äôs ‚ÄėSouvenir‚Äô¬†¬† ‚ÄĒThe Boston Globe

 

“For the apt balance of mockery and tenderness we should give McGarrahan much credit. A somewhat under sung hero of the Boston stage, he not only acts but also sings and plays piano effortlessly, in the case of ‚ÄúSouvenir‚ÄĚ dotting the recollected proceedings (and offering a palate cleanser after Foster Jenkins‚Äô assaults) with popular period tunes.”

The Soprano Who Couldn’t Sing ‚ÄĒ A Hilarious ‘Souvenir’ Is Reprised By The Lyric Stage Company¬†¬† ‚ÄĒWBUR

 

Go get a ticket. You’ll wince, you’ll cringe, and you’ll love every shattered, crushed, and mutilated note.

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins¬†¬† ‚ÄĒEdge Media Network

 

Souvenir works on many levels, and the fact that both actors play it straight enhances the beauty and warmth of the story. It also happens to be really funny, but the audience is not encouraged to laugh at Florence’s singing; rather, the humor is spawned by her personality, her foibles, and some of the situations that Temperley shows us. McGarrahan doubles as the show’s music director and, in addition to all of the operatic pieces he plays to accompany Barrett, he tickles the ivories with style (and without benefit of sheet music) on a number of popular tunes of the period. It’s almost like being in a piano bar, only without the bar, and it’s delightful. With the skills and experience brought to the table by Barrett and McGarrahan, Veloudos took the opportunity to add depth to their characterizations. He lets us feel the genuine affection between Florence and Cosm√©, perhaps shining a light on why she was so popular and how her music truly was a joyful noise.

SOUVENIR Redux: A Joyful Noise¬†¬† ‚ÄĒBroadwayWorld

 

“Over at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, the revival of ‚ÄúSouvenir‚ÄĚ is so bad it‚Äôs funny. And that‚Äôs just the way they want it.”

Souvenir’ on Lyric Stage in Boston strikes a chord on the funny bone¬†¬† ‚ÄĒWicked Local

 

“Skip Curtiss‚Äôs set is simple and elegant, serving mostly as Florence‚Äôs rooms at the Ritz, with the removal of a few pieces transporting it to a recital hall. Gail Astrid Buckley‚Äôs marvelous period costumes run the gamut from exquisite to gaudy, which Florence was prone to.”

Lyric‚Äôs ‚ÄúSouvenir‚ÄĚ a Keeper¬†¬† ‚ÄĒTheater Mirror

 

“Barrett and McGarrahan are older and probably wiser, and they‚Äôre able to easily slip back into the roles just as if they were donning a pair of warm slippers, and the warmth and chemistry they project from the stage will have you admiring their artistry all over again, under the capable direction of Spiro Veloudos.”

‚ÄėSouvenir‚Äô: A Repeat Very Much Worth Watching¬†¬† ‚ÄĒOn Boston Stages

 

“…the utmost praise is due to that triple threat of Barrett, McGarrahan and Veloudos, responsible for an uncanny cascade of mind-boggling side-splitters, rib-ticklers and knee-slappers galore. Your attitude toward musical performance may never be quite the same after you’ve experienced this souvenir of a bygone era. (Or error).”

Lyric’s “Souvenir”: A Legend in Her Own Mind¬†¬† ‚ÄĒSouth Shore Critic

 

“Incredibly funny, poignant, wonderfully directed.”

WGBH Arts Editor Reviews Souvenir¬†¬† ‚ÄĒWGBH Morning Edition, Thursday, November 9, 2017

I wanted to do something for my 20th anniversary season that was really special to me,‚ÄĚ said Veloudos. ‚ÄúThere were a number of shows that I could have chosen, but I chose Souvenir for two reasons: One, I find the story fascinating; the other reason is that I get to work with two of my favorite actors. And it‚Äôs grown up a little bit.

A Lovely Souvenir¬†¬† ‚ÄĒDig Boston

Cast & Crew

 

*¬†denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association
** denotes member of United Scenic Artists (USA-Locat 829)
*** denotes member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC)

About Florence Foster Jenkins

Has a singer ever performed with the vitality and passion of Florence Foster Jenkins? A Carnegie Hall audience has certainly never witnessed such a splendidly horrible performance. Somehow, her powerful voice never seemed to find the right notes. Yet, she sang on with conviction, and somehow it worked.

Born in 1868 as Florence Foster, she 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.

Florence Foster Jenkins Singing

 

As portrayed in Stephen Temperley‚Äôs ‚Äúfantasia‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äútalent,‚ÄĚ strangers, as well as the cr√®me de la cr√®me 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. ‚ÄúAt 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,‚ÄĚ observed Cosme McMoon, her talented piano accompanist at all performances. ‚ÄúShe would pause altogether and bow, many times, and then resume the song.‚ÄĚ

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 78.

The legend of Florence Foster Jenkins includes many hilarious and fascinating stories: in performance, she made a habit of changing into different costumes ‚Äďall self-designed ‚Äď between numbers. One of her most famous, depicted on the cover of the posthumously released album¬†The Glory (????) of the Human Voice,¬†included a large pair of angel wings attached to her back. In one performance, she threw flowers about the stage. When the crowd cheered enthusiastically at the end, she retrieved the petals and repeated the number again. One of the most famous tales was that she claimed that experiencing a minor taxi accident enabled her to sing a high F. She tipped the driver generously and subsequently expand her repertoire to include music with the higher range. Though she claimed to be in her sixties throughout the bulk of her career, she was actually in her seventies.

Perhaps people paid attention to Florence because of her sincerity and passion about music. She was always happiest when she sang and her self-confidence seemed never to falter. Some accounts suggest that Florence never knew how she sounded to the critics. Others say that she¬†knew,¬†but simply did not care. She was quoted as saying, ‚ÄúPeople may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.‚ÄĚ

– By Meg Cook and Rebecca Curtiss

 

About Cosmé McMoon

Cosm√© McMoon,¬†¬†Florence Foster Jenkins’s faithful accompanist, first became acquainted the ‚Äúdire diva of din‚ÄĚ in 1927.

Jenkins asked this concert pianist and aspiring composer to play for her first private concert. He continued, accompanying her for¬†private shows at The Ritz-Carlton Ballroom, The Birdy Club, on recordings, and at her first and¬†only performance at Carnegie Hall. Although Jenkins’s audiences were often doubled over with laughter, McMoon always played with a straight face and tried his best to highlight what little talent Jenkins had. On her recordings, McMoon can be heard adjusting the rhythm of his playing to accommodate Jenkins’s vocal shortcomings. He also composed songs for her, such as ‚ÄúSerenata Mexicano‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúThe Ant and the Grasshopper.‚ÄĚ Their partnership lasted until her sudden death in 1944.

– Notes by Katie Kierstead

More Information

October 20 — November 19
11:50 am

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