BWW Review: SOUVENIR at Rep Stage in Columbia - You'll Laugh Till It Hurts!
It was exactly ten years ago I first saw Stephen Temperley's SOUVENIR at Baltimore Center Stage which starred Tony Award winner, Judy Kaye. I could not imagine seeing a better version of it ever. But, I was wrong. The Rep Stage version is just plain spectacular and the two actors who perform here, Grace Bauer and Alan Naylor are just plain marvelous.
Bauer has a difficult task. She plays the role of Florence Foster Jenkins in the 1930's and '40s who was under the delusion that she was a diva, a great soprano, when she was in fact incapable of producing two consecutive notes in tune. Just try this. Her recitals in New York's Ritz-Carlton ballroom (she resided in the hotel) brought her extraordinary fame. Jenkins became a huge sensation and a cult hero. And why was this performer such a hit? She couldn't sing a lick, but she thought she could. She even comments about Baltimore's own Rosa Ponselle, a noted opera star. She states, "I heard Rosa Ponselle. Something was missing."
As news of her terrible singing spread, so did her celebrity. The climax of her career was a sing concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944. It sold out in two hours and two thousand fans were turned away.. She died a month later.
The play is told by accompanist Cosme McMoon (played brilliantly by Naylor) with a dead pan delivery. McMoon never expected, due to financial considerations, he accepted his role as Jenkins' accompanist while abstaining from revealing the truth to her on stage and off. McMoon is a frustrated composer and singer. He regards Jenkins initially as a way to pay the rent, but, as he gets to know her, his initial contempt gives way to reluctant admiration, and then friendship and affection. Naylor does a masterful job. Wait till you see how he plays a note loudly, points to Jenkins to sing it, and well, you know the rest of the story. They performed together for 12 years.
Director Ritsch works wonders, especially with the way McMoon must interact with Jenkins. Watch his eyes and body movement closely. I just loved listening to his piano playing.
How Bauer performs her role is a mystery to me. She is just plain terrific.
Adding to the enjoyment are the wonderful and clever costumes by Julie A. Potter. After each song at her Carnegie Hall, she retreats for another costume. Wait till you see her version of the Statue of Liberty with her torch. Kudos to William K. D'Eugenio (Sound), Rebecca Bell Echols (Music Director), Adam Mendelson (Lighting Designer), Mollie Singe (Set Design) and Lucy Wakfield (Wig Designer).
I loved the projections of dancing notes at the end.
See SOUVENIR. You will laugh until your face hurts.
There will be post show discussions on September 13 and 20. There will be a pre-show lecture prior to the 2 p.m. performance on September 21. It runs until Sept. 22. For tickets, call 443-518-1500 or visit www.repstage.org.
Coming next to Rep Stage is E2, a World Premiere by Bob Bartlett and directed by Ritsch. It runs Oct. 31 to Nov. 17, 2019.
THIS AND THAT
Olney Theatre present an Applause Concert on October 11, 2019 , for one night only, see a concert version of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN at 8 p.m.
Several members of the their CABARET cast will be performing: Jessica Lauren Ball, Gregory Maheu, Donna Migliaccio, Mason Alexander Park, Connor James Reilly, and Tom Story. Patricia Hurley is the Spiderwoman. Christopher Youstra serves as Artistic Director and Musical Director.
For all you Audra McDonald fans out there, she is coming to George Washington University Center of the Arts in Fairfax, VA with a a three-piece ensemble on September 28, 2019. Visit www.cfa.gmu.edu. Tickets range from $50 to $100.
Coming to the Kennedy Center are CATS (September 17 to October 6), WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME (September 11-22) and FOOTLOSE, part of the Broadway Center Stage program October 9 to the 13th. Call 202-467-4600 for tickes.
Check out Theatre Week which runs from Sept. 10 to 29, 2019 to get $15 and $35 theatre tickets to Ford's, Signature, Studio, and many more. Visit www.Theatreweek.org.
Finally, I wanted to mention today, September 11, 2019, is a sad day in U.S. history. I listened today to Sirius/XM radio and Seth Redetsky played a song from COME FROM AWAY sung by the great Jenn Collella, who won a Tony Award for her role as an American Airlines pilot. We just saw her perform at New York's Subculture in concert with Jason Robert Brown who is there once a month in residence. She was amazing. I didn't realize when we saw her on Sept. 9 that was just two days before 9/11. Do not miss an opportunity to see her in concert. I also had got a chance to meet the great Joel Grey, a huge fan of Brown.