BWW Review: SOUVENIR at Noce: A Show Worth Revisiting
Theatre companies always hope a show will do well, but every so often a show comes that exceeds their expectations, and eventually, they bring the show back. For Noce, known for bringing the best jazz artist to Des Moines, their show is a play ironically called "Souvenir" which is returning to the end of October. I missed it the first time the show was produced, and after seeing the show this weekend, this "Souvenir" was certainly worth taking another look at.
At the top of the show, we meet a man named Cosme McMoon morning the loss of a musician that he played piano for. What we soon find out, this musician is known for one thing, singing poorly. As we get to know this larger than life character, we find out she thinks that she is an amazing singer. And she has the money to make her singing dreams come true. Is she the souvenir in the title of the show, or is it something she has left behind? For that, you will have to see the show to find out.
One of the things I was excited about coming into this show was seeing the costumes Mel Ziegenfus won the 2018 Cloris Award with. While there are some nice costumes in the first act, the second act shows Mel Ziegenfus' amazing work. My favorite costume moments came in the Carnegie Hall seen where each costume elicited their response as they became as large as life as Florence Foster Jenkins was. My favorite had to be the final costume of the Carnegie Hall scene, which I don't want to give it away. Like the audience within the show, if found it hard to contain my laughter at how over the top it was, which is exactly the response I felt needed to happen at the point in the show.
One of the things that I felt made "Souvenir" a unique show is how much of the show was focused on storytelling. There were a few different ways that we got to see this. One of these was in Maxwell Shaeffer's staging. I enjoyed how he had the actors on the stage during the scenes where the focus was on showing what was happening, and then in the audience when the focus was more on the storytelling. Another way they played into differentiating between these two ideas of the present and the past was in the lighting design. Similar to the staging the lighting used more blues in scenes where the focus was on Cosme, and then ambers in the scenes where the focus was on Florence.
The storytelling continues in Max Wellman's portrayal of Cosme. When he goes to the piano at the top of the show, it seemed like we may be in for an evening of old standards, but he starts transitioning between music and telling the audience of the larger than life Jenkins. The transitions were effortless as he went back and forth between music and storytelling at the top of the show. I also appreciated during the times he was telling doing more storytelling, he took the time to look at each audience member, pulling them into the world of the show as though they were part of his world.
Playing with the duality seen in the tech, while Max's Cosme was a down to earth portrayal, Gina Gedler's portrayal of Florence Foster Jenkins was over the top. What was even more thrilling was how she escaped into the character. From the moment Gina came on stage she was the over the top Florence Foster Jenkins, even if it wasn't in one of the larger than life outfits. While she certainly brings the comedy out, Gina also brings a heart into the character that causes your heart to break for Florence towards the end of the show, This side of her portrayal is best seen towards the end of the show after the Carnegie Hall scene. It was a beautiful switch from what we had been seeing through the show.
From the stunning costumes, to the amazing staging, to the beautiful performance, it is clear to see why Noce decided to bring back "Souvenir". If you missed the production the first time around, don't miss out on your chance to see it now. Performances continue on Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM through the end of October. To find out more, or to purchase tickets, visit http://nocedsm.com/