Souvenir, Stephen Temperley’s memory play about the 12-year relationship between 1940s society warbler Florence Foster Jenkins (more on that warbling in a moment) and her stalwart piano accompanist Cosme McMoon, gets evergreener every year. Its Broadway run was brief — though not quite as brief as Jenkins’ real-life, one-night-only Carnegie Hall sellout — but Souvenir still thrives in the regions. Center City Theatre Works’ current effort marks the show’s third recent local production, and with good reason.
As scripted “reality” television and YouTube’s viral oddities grow increasingly tiresome — and their creators, in turn, grow more desperate for our attention — the naiveté, chutzpah, and tone-deaf squawking of 70-ish Jenkins (April Woodall) seems ever more endearing. Jenkins’ performances and reputation grew from small recitals for friends at the Ritz to several recordings, and that final concert, just a month before her death. If the title “outsider artist” existed at the time, she would have qualified; instead, one wag dubbed her “Queen of the Sliding Scale,” and she seemed to be the only one who wasn’t in on the joke.