Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 28, 2010


TheaterWorks, Hartford, CT
through May 23, 2010
by Jarice Hanson

Has anyone, or everyone, ever realized that what you think of yourself may not be what other people think? This is the premise of "Souvenir," a play based on the real life of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who thought she had a beautiful operatic voice, when in reality, she couldn't product two consecutive notes in tune. While she regularly performed for friends and fans who stifled their laughter and applauded her wildly, no one would tell her the truth. Enter a young pianist/composer named Cosme McMoon who becomes Madame Flo's pianist. Madame Flo hears the music in her head. Cosme can't get his own compositions performed. Together they experience triumphs, disappointments, and most of all, they build an enduring friendship.

The production features two accomplished, flawless performers. Neva Rae Powers channels Florence with impeccable comic timing, spasmodic jerks to emphasize high notes, and a likability that gives credence to the implausible, but true story. Florence may be foolish, but she's no fool. Edwin Cahill is an accomplished vocalist and pianist whose insights into Cosme's life allow the character to grow into someone who the audience likes and understands. Together, they become friends who protect and support each other. Those watching them truly care.

While the audience at TheaterWorks is supposted to laugh at Florence, it is painful when her onstage audience laughs at her. Act I shows how the two meet and negotiate their relationship. Act II focuses on Florence's Carnegie Hall debut, complete with a costume change for every song.

Stephen Temperley's clever script is as touching as it is genuinely funny, and director Michael Evan Haney has found the right notes on which to build this unusual musical comedy. In the warm, intimate TheaterWorks space, these artists provide an evening of laughter, comedy, and heart.