Jenkins – Souvenir is on at the Centaur Theatre May 22 to the 25
By Sharman Yarnell – Montreal Times
Photo credits: Ali Barillaro
You really have to wonder at some people’s nerve,right? I mean if you had a bad voice, one that drew laughter, would you get up on stage to sing? Let’s take this a bit further. If you had a bad voice, would you get up on stage at Carnegie Hall and sing?
Florence Foster Jenkins would. In fact, she did. On October 25, in 1944, she took to the stage at Carnegie Hall and ‘sang’ to a sold out house! The problem was…she couldn’t sing. She lacked everything when it came to singing – voice, pitch, rhythm, pronunciation. But not nerve. Nerve she had plenty of.
She certainly entertained her audiences – they found her hilarious. At first, Jenkins didn’t realize that the noise she heard from her audiences was not approval, but rather people stifling their laughter. She brushed aside any laughter she did hear during her performances as “jealousy”. “People may say I can’t sing,” she said, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” Jenkins had crowds of dedicated fans following her to all her performances, many of which were in the Ritz Carlton in New York. The New York socialite was a cult sensation! (Some critics suggested the possibility of her putting the bad voice on knowing full well that it would become a quirky draw.)
There is so much written about Jenkins and McMoon that is contradictory, that it is very difficult to know the truths. One thing is true and that is that their time together made a good story.
Souvenir, a play based on Jenkins’ musical career, is written by Stephen Temperley. Whilst set in the 60s, it flashes back to the 30s when Jenkins met pianist Cosme McMoon (who allegedly made faces behind her back during performances). It opened on Broadway in 2005 with Judy Kaye nominated for both the Tony and Drama Desk awards for her performance as Jenkins.
In Your Face Entertainment is presenting a production of Souvenir, May 22 to May 25 at the Centaur Theatre.
Taking on the role of Florence Jenkins is Nadia Verrucci. Verrucci has a wonderful voice, as heard last year in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, another IYFE production. (She won Outstanding Lead Actress in an Independent Production at last years Metas.) It will be very interesting to hear how Verrucci will adapt her voice to that of Jenkins. “…it would be hard if the songs were more in the musical theater style and in my vocal range, but because it’s opera and all of the pieces are written for a soprano or even a coloratura soprano, its actually not as hard as it could be!”
Also in this production is Chris Barillaro, fresh off his stint as pianist inThe Songs and Stories of Judy Garland at the Segal. Barillaro has been cast as the flamboyant Cosme, who accompanies Jenkins at the piano during her performances. Anyone who frequents Montreal musicals has more than likely experienced the talent of this young musician.
Both Verrucci and Barillaro have performed in the show before, in 2009. That, too, was a limited run but they enjoyed it so much, they vowed to do it again.
Florence Foster Jenkins may have caused people to choke back on their laughter, but in the case of the play Souvenir…there’s no need to hold back, no need to stifle, at all. Let loose and enjoy a highly comedic play with two very talented actors leading you down the path taken by a very odd couple.
Souvenir is on at the Centaur Theatre May 22 to the 25.
For tickets: 514-288-3161