If you are not familiar with the name Florence Foster Jenkins, then you need to get to the Annenberg Theatre, in Palm Springs, and familiarize yourself with a unique and interesting individual. Mrs. Jenkins was a New York socialite in the 30s and 40s who sang for her friends and for charity events, even performing in the pantheon of music appreciation – Carnegie Hall. What ‘s unique about that you ask? Well, for one thing Florence or Mrs. J, as her musical accompanist of twelve years lovingly called her, couldn’t put two notes together vocally, let alone sing grand opera arias. However, she became a celebrity and a patron of the arts in the process in one of the “toughest” performing towns in America
The Coyote StageWorks musical show “Souvenir”, written by Stephen Temperley and directed by Calvin Remsberg, now onstage at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs, is a tour de force effort by its two stars: Linda Edwards as Florence Foster Jenkins, and Roy Abramsohn as Cosme McMoon.
Edwards, in real life is the possessor of a trained and beautiful operatic soprano voice. In portraying Jenkins, she alters her voice into something akin to a screeching wet cat. Jenkins was a tone-deaf singer (an oxymoron in the world of singers), but caught the fancy of New York high society becoming an unlikely celebrity in the bargain. It may not be that unusual today, considering that we’re in an age of talent-less celebrities the likes of the Paris Hilton’s, the Kardashian’s and any number of other folks, but in Jenkins’ day one had to not only talk the talk, but had to walk the walk. Linda Edwards does both with style and great timing. It takes a gifted singer to sing off-key on purpose; without sending the audience running out of the theatre.
Abramsohn is not only a Los Angeles-based, classically trained pianist, but is a fine actor/singer as well. These triple threat performers bring so much to a production. Yes, they are hard to find but when a theatrical producer like “Souvenir” producer Chuck Yates does find them, the pay-off is definitely worth the effort. As the narrator, Abramsohn tenderly and lovingly guides us on the amazing musical life story of Mrs. Jenkins; offering insight and anecdotes along the way.
The “goose-bump” element at the end of the production is worth the price of admission alone. It’s a very poignant and inspirational theatrical moment that should not be missed. Edwards and Abramsohn perform together like ham and eggs.
Once again, Coyote StageWorks presents first rate theatre, boasting solid technical credits by the creative team under the direction of Calvin Remsberg. The set design by Josh Clabaugh, and lighting design by Phil Murphy bring a nice, rich, and textured feel to the locations: a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the stage of Carnegie Hall.