A fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins

by Stephen Temperley

Starring Helen Noonan and Stephen McIntyre

 

"There weren’t many voices as bad as Jenkins’. There aren’t many theatrical experiences as good as Souvenir."
Boston Globe

 

CDP is presenting the Australian premiere of the play Souvenir at Chapel off Chapel from 20 February to March 10, 2013, followed immediately by a Sydney season at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood.

Souvenir premiered on Broadway in 2007, winning a Tony Nomination. The New York Daily News said it was hilarious and deeply touching, Variety called it a beguiling comic jewel with a heart and the New York Times described it as an unexpectedly gentle and affecting comedy. Musicals 101.com said that without
so much as a single chandelier, helicopter, puppet or flying cow, this dandy play will remind you what good theatre is all about.

Souvenir is the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the so called Diva of Din, society warbler and one of New York’s most treasured and unique personalities of the 1940’s. Written by Stephen Temperley and directed by Peter J Adams, it tells of the real-life collaboration between Mrs Jenkins and her accompanist and reluctant admirer, pianist Cosme McMoon.

Who better to play Florence Foster Jenkins and her accomplished and gradually admiring accompanist than Helen Noonan and Stephen McIntyre?

Helen Noonan has toured the world in Chamber Made Opera’s Recital. Other roles have been as diverse as Dame Nellie Melba, Carlotta the neurotic diva in the Australian premiere season of The Phantom of the Opera as well as several music theatre works written and created by Helen. Her latest triumph has been Voicing Emily in Melbourne and at the 2012 Port Fairy Festival.

Stephen McIntyre is one of Australia’s most eminent pianists and teachers. He has performed as concerto soloist with all the major Australian orchestras and he has accompanied many of the world’s great singers and instrumentalists.

Florence Foster Jenkins’s name has long been synonymous with musical torture. A wealthy society eccentric suffering under the delusion that she was a great singer, she lived at New York’s Ritz Carlton. Annual recitals in the ballroom there gained her many fans, who had to stuff handkerchiefs in their mouths to stifle their laughter.
Mrs Jenkins blissfully mistook this for cheers of approval.

As news of her terrible singing spread, so did her celebrity. The climax of her career was a memorable concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944. Famously, it sold out it two hours. Surviving recordings suggest that Jenkins may not have been the most vocally challenged singer of all time, but she certainly was the worst ever to play Carnegie Hall.

Her accompanist McMoon at first regards their collaboration as little more than an easy way to pay his rent but, as he gets to know her, his initial contempt gives way to reluctant admiration then friendship and affection. The play takes a humourous look at the true meaning of music and the art of performing. You never doubt that Jenkins has tremendous dedication to the composers whose work she massacres!

Souvenir promises an hysterically funny yet charmingly beguiling night at the theatre.

SOUVENIR
Chapel off Chapel
February 20 to March 10, 2013
$49, Concession $42,
Groups of 6 or more $39
Bookings: 03 8290 7000
chapeloffchapel.com.au

 

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