CONNECTICUT CRITICS CIRCLE

TAKE HOME AN INTRIGUING “SOUVENIR” FROM SEVEN ANGELS

By Bonnie Goldberg

Singer/songwriter Natalie Cole has been called “unforgettable” as she melds a unique rhythm of blues, pop and gospel style.  Florence Foster Jenkins’ singing could also be termed “unforgettable,” but for entirely different reasons.  Ms. Cole warbles, Ms. Foster cackled.  Ms. Cole sings superbly, Ms. Foster Jenkins only thought she did: what she heard in her head had no resemblance to reality.

Semina DeLaurentis, artistic director of Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre, has channeled herself into the persona of Florence, a woman who lived and sang in New York City from 1912 until her death in 1944.  “Souvenir” is a musical tribute to a woman who thought she had perfect pitch but didn’t, who thought she was a coloratura soprano but wasn’t.  Until Sunday, May 11, you are invited to attend graciously a series of rehearsals and concerts that exhibit the true lack of range of this remarkable lady.

Encouraged by “friends,” she expanded her repertoire, attempting to sing in foreign languages arias that were well beyond her range and pitch and tempo.  With the faithful support of her piano accompanist, Cosme McMoon, delightfully portrayed by Tom Frey, she gave recitals for charity, culminating in a final extravaganza at Carnegie Hall.

Her unconventional pursuit of a singing career, where her audiences were vastly amused rather than amazed, has been beautifully crafted by Stephen Temperly and wonderfully directed by Julia Kiley, with lighting by Susan Kinkade, costuming by Renee Purdy, on a set designed by Daniel Husvar, with  musical direction by Richard DeRosa.

For tickets ($32.50-45, students $10), call Seven Angels Theatre, Plank Road, Hamilton Pavilion Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. ; Performances are Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and Thursday - Saturday at 8 p.m.

Though Florence Foster Jenkins may not have had an ear for music or a voice for singing, her heart was pure and her belief in herself consummate.  Semina DeLaurentis does a stellar feat in bringing her to life.  Bravo!

This review first appeared in the Middletown Press.

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