What a delightful and funny true story, with a touch of sadness, is “Souvenir” by Stephen Temperly, a comedy currently gracing the stage of Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, May 23.

Neva Rae Powers inhabits the body and soul of Florence Foster Jenkins, a socialite who lived in New York in the 1930’s and believed herself to be a coloratura soprano with perfect pitch.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  The confident Ms. Jenkins sounded more akin to a howling dog in heat or a caterwauling cat on an electric fence.

She played no favorites.  She could butcher Cole Porter or Mozart with equal aplomb, and she allowed her “friends” to convince her to give parlor room recitals at the Ritz Carlton Hotel for their private amusement and the public benefit of her favorite charities.

When Cosme McMoon, charmingly portrayed by Edwin Cahill, auditions to be her piano accompanist, he is alternately appalled by the sounds emanating from her throat and fascinated by the challenge of working to improve her vocal style.  Ultimately he is enticed by the monetary compensation that will allow him to eat and pay his rent.

Their relationship grows over the years as “Madame Flo” entertains at her soirees to increasing attendance. But when she is lured to face an audience of immense proportions at Carnegie Hall no less, the pair faces a challenge of staggering consequences. Michael Evan Haney directs this velvet and sandpaper comedy with skill.

For tickets ($39-61), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.

Come early to enjoy the exhibit of painting involving theater and entertainment, courtesy of the New Britain Museum of Art, that graces the upper lobby.

Let Florence Foster Jenkins, clad in a bevy of intriguing costumes by Theresa Ham, take you on a musical journey you’ve never heard the likes of before.

This will appear in the Middletown Press on May 13.


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