Wednesday, February 11, 2009

She can't sing

Fools to present 'Souvenir'

Express Staff Writer

In a photograph by Kirsten Shultz, R.L. Rowsey and Debra Wagoner in "Souvenir," presented by Company of Fools. Photo by

Company of Fools and the Barksdale Theatre will present "Souvenir," a comic fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins by Stephen Temperley. The musical, directed by Company of Fools' core member John Glenn, is a wild ride about a wealthy woman who is a deluded songbird who financed her operatic dreams. Jenkins, known as "Flo-Jo," is played by Debra Wagoner, and the only other character on stage is her piano accompanist, Cosme McMoon, played by Company of Fools' core member R.L. Rowsey.

"I think it's a story about how we perceive ourselves," Glenn said. "The script is a lovely memory about a wacky lady."

Rowsey said that people who went to see the real-live Jenkins were there to laugh, and they did so under handkerchiefs while applauding. The audience is very much a part of the sound design of the Company of Fools' production and the set is New York City circa 1964.

Wagoner dons elaborate gowns for her character's performances as did the real Jenkins. One of the challenges for Wagoner in this production was to learn songs such as tough Italian arias and music and then learn to sing them off key or too high.

"I have spent my whole professional career trying to get it right," Wagoner said. "And, now I have to get it wrong in a very believable way."

The show will open at the Liberty Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 18, and will continue through Wednesday, March 18. In September the show will travel to the Barskdale Theatre in Richmond, Va. The original cast of Wagoner and Rowsey will open the show for the first three weeks and then Rowsey will be replaced.

"In order for Company of Fools to continue to do theater as smart business we need a balance," Rowsey said. "With collaboration, it's cost effective, and it feels good."

Glenn served as artistic director for the Barksdale Theatre for several years before moving to Idaho.

"It's a quirky piece," Glenn said. "One of the lovely things about Flo-Jo is that as a person she was a philanthropist and raised money for all of her philanthropies."

The opening performance of "Souvenir" is Wednesday, Feb. 18, and it is a Pay What You Feel Preview.

For a complete list of performance dates and prices, visit or call the box office at 578-9122, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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