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Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR

"The most important music is in your head" was the philosophy of Florence Foster Jenkins, an infamous eccentric singer whose unique climb to fame in the 1930's is depicted in the comedy "Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins", Cortland Repertory Theatre's final summer production. Written by Stephen Temperley, this hilarious and touching play is billed as a "fictional biography" as it imagines the story of the real-life Jenkins, a New York socialite and "tone-deaf diva" who fancied herself a great operatic soprano. Told through the eyes of her wry accompanist, "Souvenir" chronicles Jenkins' unlikely rise to cult status, culminating in an unbelievable sold-out Carnegie Hall performance.

Performances of CRT's "Souvenir" will run from August 31 - September 10 with evening performances at 7:30. Matinees are available on September 2, 4, and 7 at 2:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased by calling 800-427-6160 or in person at the CRT Box Office at 37 Franklin Street in Cortland. Tickets are also available for sale 24 hours a day through the CRT website at www.cortlandrep.org. The show is acceptable for all audiences, except perhaps those with perfect pitch.

The story: In the 1930's and ‘40s, the name Florence Foster Jenkins was guaranteed to produce explosions of laughter from any music lover hearing it. Jenkins was infamously well known because she suffered under the delusion that she was a great coloratura soprano, when in reality she was incapable of producing two consecutive notes in tune. Nevertheless, her annual recitals in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton hotel, where she lived, brought her incredible fame. Not unlike bad singers on today's "American Idol", as word of her terrible singing spread, so did her celebrity. Her fans packed her recitals, stuffing handkerchiefs in their mouths to stifle their laughter which Mrs. Jenkins blissfully mistook for cheers. With each new imagined triumph, Florence's confidence soared. The climax of her career was a single concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944. Famously, it sold out in two hours. However, eyewitness accounts of her concerts vary so wildly that it is almost impossible now to separate fact from gossip; thus the play is subtitled a fictional "biography" and a "fantasia" as it traces her career from her first public performance to the aftermath of the Carnegie Hall concert.

Both hilarious and poignant, "Souvenir" is told through the eyes of Jenkin's accompanist, Cosme McMoon. A talented pianist, he first thought of Jenkins as little more than an easy way to pay the rent, but as he got to know her, his initial contempt gave way to friendship and eventually great affection. Faced with Jenkin's boundless certainty, McMoon revised his attitude, not only towards her singing but to the very meaning of music itself.

Called "a beguiling comic jewel with a heart" by Variety, this show depicts a musical odd-couple for the ages. Producing Artistic Director Kerby Thompson compares this show to last season's hit "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks". "There are definite similarities between the two shows, mostly in the fact that both plays about two people from very different worlds coming together - first at odds but then learning to respect and care for each other deeply," Thompson says. "Of course the differences are that "Souvenir" is based on real people, and uses music as the vehicle of their relationship rather than dance. But I think anyone who enjoyed "Six Dance..." last year will certainly love this show."

"Madam Flo" is portrayed by Equity Guest Artist April Woodall in her CRT debt. Longtime CRT directing veteran Bill Kincaid wears multiple hats for this production; he makes his CRT acting debut by playing pianist McMoon, and also directs, music directs, and plays piano for the production. Kincaid's previous directing credits includes "Six Dance Lessons...", as well as "Gross Indecency", "A Few Good Men", "Almost, Maine, "How the Other Half Loves" and many more. Kris Valentine serves as Stage Manager, leading a production team comprised of Scenic Designer Jason Bolen, Lighting Designer Eric Behnke, Costume Designer Jimmy Johansmeyer, Sound Designer David Huber and Props Mistress Danielle Hodgins. Tracy Hoida continues as Assistant Stage Manager as does Technical Director Patrick McGovern.

CRT continues the tradition of "Friday Night Talk Backs" at which a Q & A session with the actors, designers and crew take place after every Friday evening performance. CRT is currently taking orders for Early Bird Subscriptions, Flex Passes and renewals for the 2012 season. Order forms can be picked up at the CRT office, at the theatre or online at www.cortlandrep.org. For more information, call 800-427-6160.

Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR

Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR
April Woodall and Bill Kincaid

Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR
April Woodall and Bill Kincaid

Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR
April Woodall and Bill Kincaid

Photo Flash: CRT Closes 40th Anniversary Season With SOUVENIR


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