Story of off-key songstress told in critic’s must-see rated production at Bay Street Theater

Don Simson

If there is ever a play of Broadway caliber in Central Florida, “Souvenir,” a Fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins by Stephen Temperly, is the one at the Bay Street Theater in Eustis.

The story is told in flashbacks by Cosme McMoon (Stephen Merrit), a pianist, fledgling song writer and currently a night club entertainer in the 1920s. 

Florence Foster Jenkins (a real person) [Libby Sellers], a New York aristocrat, envisions herself as an opera star but in reality she is tone deaf and cannot sing on key. She enlists the aid of Cosme to rehearse her and prepare for a recital. 

“Souvenir” runs through Feb. 24 at the Bay Street Theater in Eustis.

Cosme is appalled at her lack of singing ability and tries to refuse to help. Florence convinces Cosme to stay, as she pays well and he needs the money. The recitals come about and continue to grow for 12 years, although Florence is ridiculed behind her back until she finally gets booked at Carnegie Hall. 

The performance by these two actors is absolutely top shelf and worthy of acclaim and definitely a “must” see. 

The staging is well designed and depicts, with a little imagination, a bar, Florence’s living room and Carnegie Hall all done without curtain closures. “Souvenir” runs until Feb. 24. Tickets can be purchased at www.baystreetplayers.org. The theater is located at 109 N. Bay Street in Eustis.

Villager Don Simson reviews local theater for Villages-News.com.