Souvenier Starring Judy Kaye Premieres Dec. 1

By: Nov. 02, 2004

The York Theatre Company (James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director), in association with Ted Snowdon, will open its 36th season with the world premiere of Souvenir, a play with music starring Tony Award-winner Judy Kaye and noted Broadway conductor Jack Lee, on Friday, November 19 at the Company's home at Saint Peter's, Citigroup Center, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street). Opening night is scheduled for Wednesday, December 1; the play continues through Sunday, January 2, 2005.

Written by Stephen Temperley and directed by Tony Award-winner Vivian Matalon, Souvenir is based on the story of the legendary Florence Foster Jenkins, the musically challenged coloratura, and her relationship with her hapless accompanist, Cosmé McMoon.

The design team comprises R. Michael Miller (scenic), Tracy Christiansen (costume), Ann Wrightson (lighting), and David Budries (sound). Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy society eccentric, suffered under the delusion that she was a great soprano--when in fact the exact opposite was true. Nevertheless, her charity recitals in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Hotel and other New York venues brought her extraordinary fame. As news of her unfortunate singing spread, so did her celebrity. Audiences fought to get into her recitals; Mrs. Jenkins blissfully mistook their muffled laughter for cheers. One concert at Carnegie Hall in the mid '40s sold out in two hours and 2000 disappointed people were turned away.

Souvenir, by turn hilarious and poignant, tells her story through the eyes of Cosmé McMoon. As her accompanist, he begins by treating her with derision which grows into friendship as he comes to see that this musical eccentric merits more than mere mockery.

Judy Kaye's multifaceted, nearly four-decade long career has taken her from Broadway to the nation's leading theaters, opera houses and concert halls. Her Broadway credits include Mamma Mia!, Ragtime, On the Twentieth Century, and Phantom of the Opera, for which she won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical. Included among her numerous stage performances are leading roles in The Pajama Game and Brigadoon (New York City Opera) and Annie Get Your Gun (Paper Mill Playhouse). She has starred in concert at Town Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Carnegie Hall.

One of the most respected musical directors in the country, Jack Lee has helmed such Broadway productions as Sweet Charity, Peter Pan, My One and Only, Grand Hotel and My Fair Lady in addition to numerous national and international tours including Applause (with Lauren Bacall), George M! (with Joel Grey) and No Strings (with Howard Keel). His acting credits include performances at The Cleveland Playhouse in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Finian's Rainbow, and Julius Caesar. He is a full professor of Drama at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Director Vivian Matalon has worked extensively in London's West End, on Broadway and in U.S. regional theaters. Broadway credits include After the Rain with Alec McCowen and Nancy Marchand; Noel Coward in Two Keys with Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Anne Baxter; Brigadoon in its last Broadway revival; The Tap Dance Kid; and Morning's at Seven, for which he won the Tony Award for best direction of a play.

Playwright Stephen Temperley's New York credits include Beside the Seaside (Hudson Guild), Money/Mercy (Chelsea Theatre Center), and Dance with Me (18th Street Theater). As an actor, Temperley has appeared on Broadway in Crazy for You, on the West End in Happy End, and across the U.S. and U.K. in scores of plays and musicals, most recently in Call Me Madam at Goodspeed Musicals. The York Theatre Company is the only theater in New York City – and one of very few in the world – dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals, and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past. For more than three decades, York's intimate, imaginative style of producing both original and neglected classic musicals has resulted in critical acclaim and recognition from artists and audiences alike. More than 20 cast recordings from York Theatre Company productions are now available on CD, and commercial transfers of such York productions as Jolson & Company, Sweeney Todd, and Pacific Overtures have all showcased the importance of the York and its programs. Its most recent production, The Musical of Musicals – The Musical!, was developed in the York Theatre Company's Developmental Reading Series, where the current Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, Avenue Q, also started.

Souvenir will run on the following schedule:

November 19 to December 12 -[No Thursday performances]
Monday through Wednesday and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m
Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

December 13 to January 2 - [No Saturday performances]
Monday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $55. Student tickets are available on the day of the performance for $20, subject to availability. Tickets are available at, (212) 868-4444, or in person at the box office on the lower level at Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th).