by Stephen Temperley
directed by James Cady
The Adobe Theater is presenting Stephen Temperley’s 2005 Broadway play Souvenir. In this case the “act of remembering” is being done by an aging nightclub pianist and what he is remembering is a woman most people have never heard of, but will undoubtedly hear of soon since Meryl Streep has signed on to play her in a major film that will start production soon after The Adobe Theater’s production closes.
Souvenir carries the subtitle “A Fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins”. Lorri Layle Oliver will portray Ms. Jenkins and Philip J. Shortell will play the aging nightclub pianist – the improbably though actually named Cosmé McMoon.
Before Lorri had heard of “Souvenir” she first learned about the real life Florence Foster Jenkins (FFJ) in the late 1980s when Lorri was studying opera in Santa Fe. She was working on some coloratura arias with her accompanist, Ron Grinage. During a break, he played a recording of FFJ singing the “Queen of the Night” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”. They laughed at it, but Lorri was horrified at the same time that someone that bad would actually record themselves
This is not a play about a bad singer. It’s a play about a woman who did not sing well but was famous in NY Society for her posh recitals and charity work. She was well known enough that renowned and wonderful musicians like Cole Porter and Noel Coward came to her concerts.
When Lorri and Phil started acting together in 2012 (first as Linda and Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman and then in 2013 as Kate and Joe Keller in All My Sons – both directed by James Cady), these two productions were very well received. Since then they have been looking for another play. James Cady will again direct and Donna M. Barra will again be the Stage Manager.
Souvenir is a warm, humorous and loving fictional interpretation of what the relationship between Cosmé McMoon and FFJ may have been.
As best we can know FFJ and Cosmé met in 1932 and they stayed together (as singer and accompanist) till her death shortly after a sold out concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944. Our play opens with Cosmé at the keyboard 20 years to the day after her death, looking back to their meeting in 1932 and carrying forward.
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