You might not be tempted to pick up any trinkets or city themed items while you’re out in Albany – but there is one gift you must experience this month, and it’s Souvenir at Capital Repertory Theatre.
The latest production at TheREP, Souvenir brings us the story of Florence Foster Jenkins – notoriously one of the worst opera singers to perform. And sure, hearing that as the premise you might think to yourself “Why would I want to watch someone sing horribly? I can do that at home!” (or maybe you’re a great singer… I am not), but the play is so funny, so heartfelt, so entertaining that you will fall in love.
Told from the perspective of Cosme McMoon, who played piano for Foster Jenkins, the piece is a remembrance of his time with the late, not-so-great singer. As McMoon (Jonas Cohen) recounts his time with Foster Jenkins we follow along from their first meeting to their final performance.
The first time he listens to her, McMoon – a financially struggling musician and songwriter – can hardly believe what he’s hearing. Initially trying to get out of playing piano for her performance, which is to be held in front of family and friends, McMoon suddenly considers his rent and agrees because “it’s only one performance.”
That one becomes 12 years of performing together.
As word gets out about Foster Jenkins (Georga Osborne), the number of performances grows, eventually reaching a sold out show at Carnegie Hall.
McMoon describes how hysterical audience members fill their mouths with handkerchiefs, run from their seats, and double over in laughter while she sings. For her part, “Madam Flo” doesn’t hear it. In her mind, the lights glow brighter; the admiration and awe only grow.
On multiple occasions, when McMoon is fed up with how often (meaning every single time she sings) she misses notes, Foster Jenkins insists he not get upset with himself or the piano for being off key.
Performed perfectly by Osborne and Cohen, the play is a touching celebration of a woman of whom you’ve probably never heard – but, upon seeing Souvenir, you’ll likely never forget. To be sure, the piece is laugh out loud funny, but it also pays tribute to a caring, familial relationship built between McMoon and Foster Jenkins. McMoon swings between being embarrassed for her and being her protector – much as you might feel about, say, your parents.
The show as a whole is a wonderful experience not to be missed, but the beautiful ending might brings tears to your eyes – and, this time anyway, not from laughing.
Souvenir plays at Capital Repertory Theatre through March 22, 2015. Tickets are available at the box office (111 N Pearl Street), by phone at 518.445.7469, or online at capitalrep.org
Photo from Capital Repertory Theatre’s Facebook page.