BWW Review: SOUVENIR at Granite Theatre
We all know how to sing badly. But it takes a true professional-both musical and comedic- to assault some of opera's most beloved arias and make it entertaining. In the Granite Theatre's production of Souvenir, with Diana Blanda as a frothy and endearing Florence Foster Jenkins, the joke never gets old.
Thanks to the recent film, Florence Foster Jenkins, the true story of this delusional heiress is once again well known. Jenkins fancied herself a gifted coloratura soprano, but in reality she was a horrible singer. She gave annual charity concerts-largely attended by kind friends or those who managed to stifle their laughter. Over time her fame grew-unfortunately it was not for the reason she imagined-and her career peaked with a legendary sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall.
Souvenir, the 2005 play by Stephen Temperly, tells Jenkins' story through the eyes - and ears- of her accompanist and reluctant musical collaborator, Cosme McMoon. In the Granite's production, McMoon is played by Stephen DeCesare, who is also the theatre's resident musical director. DeCesare's voice and piano playing tempers the comedy with a beautiful counterpoint to Jenkin's warbles. DeCesare adeptly switches from a wistful, wry older McMoon working in a piano bar in 1964 to younger versions of himself-beginning with his first meeting with Jenkins some thirty years prior.
Blanda appears in the first act regal in purple and pearls, but costumers Paula Brouillette, Paula Pendola and Beth Jepson have her in a series of outrageous outfits in the second act that heighten the comedy.
And thanks to a sublime surprise treat at the very end, Blanda leaves us with Florence Foster Jenkins as an inspiration, not object of pity or ridicule.
Souvenir is Anna Convery's directorial debut at the Granite Theatre. It runs through June 18, 2017. For more information, go to www.granitetheatre.com.