Performing Arts

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins

North Carolina Stage Company

Jono Mainelli

North Carolina Stage Company presents Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins on select dates from Wednesday, March 15, through Sunday, April 2.

The play is based on the true story of Jenkins, a wealthy New York socialite with a famously uncertain sense of pitch and key, who teamed up with mediocre pianist Cosmé McMoon in 1932, in the shared hope of achieving success. Over the next dozen years, their partnership yielded hilariously off-key recitals that became the talk of New York and earned them cultish fame.

“We are fascinated by bad performances,” says Charlie Flynn-McIver, founder and artistic director of North Carolina Stage Company. “And Jenkins is a famously bad singer, but ultimately, her story is about faith in one’s talent and faith in oneself. This play looks at what happens when desire outweighs talent.”

Souvenir, like Jenkins’ career, culminates in a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944, during which the audience turns on Jenkins in gales of derisive laughter. Her story, told through the eyes of McMoon, pierces the heart of the hopeful artist that lives in all of us.

“As a performer, writer, or artist, it is very powerful to live on the delicate line that divides delusion and confidence,” says Jono Mainelli, who plays McMoon. “Florence worked hard at the craft she thought she had and I respect her for working on her own terms. According to Cosmé, who admired the purity of her mania, she was never unhappy.”

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins was written by Stephen Temperley and first produced by the Off-Broadway York Theatre Company, running from November 2004 to January 2005. The Flat Rock Playhouse staged Souvenir in their 2013 season. The story was recently made into a movie featuring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg.

North Carolina Stage Company’s production of the play is directed by Flynn-McIver and headlined by Callan White as Francis Foster Jenkins and the aforementioned Mainelli as Cosmé McMoon. It is part of the Asheville Amadeus Festival, a ten-day event held from Friday, March 10, through Sunday, March 19.

North Carolina Stage Company is located at 15 Stage Lane in Asheville. Performances are held Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., and select Saturdays at 2 p.m. Visit ncstage.org for current ticket prices and purchasing. 

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