BWW Review: SOUVENIR at Totem Pole Playhouse
Florence Foster Jenkins - the 20th century performer who shocked with her confidence that she was a fantastic opera singer when she was absolutely not - was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. So, it only makes sense that Totem Pole Playhouse, just over two hours outside of the city would memorialize her with a production of the biographical musical play Souvenir.
The play centers around just two characters: Jenkins herself (Patricia Linhart) and her long-time accompanist, Cosme McMoon (Bob Walton). McMoon narrates and plays vignettes of his memories with Jenkins.
Though Jenkins' story is entertaining on its own, Souvenir seems to be lacking heart and nuance. Linhart plays the same flamboyant, attention hungry Jenkins the entire show -- and stares out into the audience during every scene. Her Jenkins is a caricature of the real woman, and doesn't play into her character's true passion for music or charity. This makes it hard to empathize when Jenkins' has a breakdown after realizing that people are ridiculing her, because she has been so one-dimensional the entire play. However, Linhart nails the physical comedy that comes with singing as Florence Foster Jenkins and had audience members literally in tears.
The real gem of this production is Bob Walton as McMoon. Think Ben Folds meets Matthew Broderick. Walton is instantly likable and perfectly complements Linhart's comedy moments. His McMoon seems completely genuine, and he brings the warmth to an otherwise flat show.
As always, Totem Pole's production quality when it comes to sets, costumes and lighting were top-notch. The majority of the play takes place inside Jenkins' music room while she and McMoon rehearse for various recitals. Lighting is key in moving the space from the music room to Carnegie Hall or McMoon's apartment. The design is smart and keeps the two-person show moving quickly without losing visual interest.
In all, Totem Pole Playhouse's production of Souvenir is a good way to shake off the stress of the day and just laugh -- but don't expect to feel much else.
Souvenir runs through July 28 and tickets can be purchased HERE.