Cotuit Center for the Arts’ critically acclaimed production of “Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins,” a comedy by Stephen Temperley, will be presented at the Provincetown Theater for six performances only , August 5 through 14.
“Souvenir” features Jo Brisbane as Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy, music-loving New York socialite, who rose to fame for her annual vocal recitals at the Ritz-Carlton, and David Kuehn, Executive Director of the Center, as Cosmé McMoon, her piano accompanist.
Crowds went wild as she sang some of the most difficult arias in opera, festooned in fabulous costumes during the 1930s and ‘40s. She recorded for RCA, and her career culminated in a solo concert at Carnegie Hall. The only problem was she could not sing. “She was awful,” said Mary Arnault, who is directing the play. “She was tone-deaf and her voice was atrocious, but she nevertheless attracted an audience of friends who found her wildly amusing. The play is about relationships, compassion and the human spirit, and it is also laugh-out-loud funny.”
Cosmé McMoon looks back on Florence’s life on the 20th anniversary of her death; the audience sees her through his eyes and watches their relationship develop. Initially dubious of her talents, Cosmé grew to appreciate her and to protect her. He is ultimately transformed by her and begins to question everything he knows about music.
Jenkins actually did have musical talent. She was a child prodigy at the piano and performed throughout her home state of Pennsylvania, and even at the White House when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. Unfortunately, she suffered an injury to her arm and had to give up the piano. She turned to singing, which gave her great joy, despite what she sounded like to others.
“I’ve fallen so deeply in love with this story and the words of the playwright that I want to share it with as many people as possible,” said Kuehn. “I am delighted that we have been invited to perform the show in Provincetown the first two weekends in August and in Nantucket so all of our snowbirds will be able to see it too.”
Arnault has directed “I’ll Eat You Last,” “33 Variations,” “Red,” “39 Steps,” “Quills,” and “Dark of the Moon” for Cotuit Center for the Arts. Costumes are by Alan Trugman, lighting design by Greg Hamm, and scenic design by Andrew Arnault. “Souvenir” opened on Broadway in 2005 and was nominated for several awards.