The human voice is a marvelous instrument, capable of sounding sublime beauty or wreaking havoc on your nerves. Somehow, Florence Foster Jenkins managed to achieve both effects simultaneously. The wealthy socialite wanted to be a singer — she willed herself to be a singer, in fact. But she had no sense of rhythm, both her diction and phrasing were awful, and she had an adversarial relationship with key. (Proof, horrible and thrilling, is rampant on Youtube, if you dare). And yet there she was, backed by her long-time pianist Cosme McMoon, singing opera at various charitable concerts (charities not for her, but for the benefit of others), packing the Ritz-Carlton ballroom at her annual recital, and eventually selling out Carnegie Hall. How? And why does Cosme, a serious musician, stay with her through the years? There's something pitiful and profound in Jenkins' pursuit of a dream that was always out of reach. Stephen Temperly explores the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins in his play Souvenir, presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 12, in the Emerson Studio Theater at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-968-4925 or www.repstl.org). The show goes on through Sunday, March 29 (no performances on Monday), and tickets are $34 to $52.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: March 12. Continues through March 29, 2009