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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review

It seems to me that some of the notes are not quite . . . secure. — Cosme McCoon
Neva Rae Powers and Edwin Cahill (Photo: Joshua Demers)
Listening to Neva Rae Powers sing in Souvenir at TheaterWorks, Hartford, is truly painful, but that's a good thing. She plays Florence Foster Jenkins in Stephen Temperley's very funny play about the real-life, tone-deaf, New York socialite who becomes famous, or perhaps more accurately infamous, giving concerts during which she rarely, if ever, hits a note.

Powers, directed by Michael Evan Haney, is hysterical and I dare you not to laugh as the soprano massacres Mozart, Verdi and Ave Maria among other things. Her range is amazing — as far as making horrible-sounding noises goes, that is. At times she sounds like a squawking chicken; at others you'd swear Ninja warriors are attacking, a cat is being skinned or that it's mating time for the chimps at the zoo.

Sharing our pain is her pianist, Cosme McCoon (Edwin Cahill), in whom she finds a "collaborator" and "soul mate." He, however, can't seem to find the right words to tell this self-proclaimed possessor of "perfect pitch" how badly she sounds and that the crowds flocking to see her are wiping away tears of laughter, not emotion. His attempts to suggest that something might not sound quite right are brushed off by Foster who assumes the piano must be out of tune. Their collaboration continues for an unbelievable 12 years during which she makes a recording and performs and annual concert at the Ritz Hotel ballroom.

Florence's career culminates with a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, for which Florence designs a different costume for each of the 24 numbers. Designed by Theresa Ham, her dresses are among some of the most horrible creations imaginable, so that she offends the eyes as well as the ear. To his horror, Cosme discovers that Florence has a special surprise for him at the Carnegie Hall concert: she's going to premiere one of his own compositions.

Temperley’s script would benefit from some editing, especially at the beginning and end, to make it tighter and more effective. Everything in between, however, is fractured music to the ear. True music lovers shouldn’t despair, however. Powers gets a chance to show what she’s really capable of in a surprise toward the end of the program.

Editor's Note: Souvenir seems to be on the way to matching Florence Foster Jenkins' long run. Since we first saw it five years ago it's been a steady winner at regional theaters. It's fun for the audience and a challenge for the actresses Audiences love it, and so do the act

By Stephen Temperley
Directed by Michael Evan Haney

Cast: Neva Rae Powers (Florence Foster Jenkins), Edwin Cahill (Cosme McCoon)
Scenic Design: Adrian W. Jones
Lighting Design: Matthew Richards
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Assistant Sound Design: Emery Roth Running time: 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission
TheaterWorks, at City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford, CT
Performances: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30
Seats are $39 for weeknights and matinees; $49 for Friday and Saturday evenings. Seating is general admission. Center reserved seats are $12 extra. College-age student rush $12 at show time with valid ID (subject to availability). Discounts are available for groups of 12 or more.Tickets are available by calling (860) 527-7838 or by visiting
April 16-May 23, 2010
Review by Lauren Yarger based on performance of April 23, 2010
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