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Theater review: 'Souvenir' at the Falcon Theatre

February 11, 2010 |  9:00 pm

400.Souvenir Press 1Dr. House would call it the Dunning-Kruger Effect: a cognitive bias that leads incompetent people to overrate their abilities. But Florence Foster Jenkins, the infamous tone-deaf socialite singer, was just living her dream. Her unlikely triumph is the subject of “Souvenir,” Stephen Temperley’s droll Broadway hit, now at the Falcon Theatre.

This backstage comedy with music plays out the relationship between Jenkins (Constance Hauman) and her loyal accompanist, Cosme McMoon (Brent Schindele). Temperley deftly turns their 1940s novelty act into a meditation on self-knowledge, contrasting a musician painfully aware of his artistic limits with an enthusiast who has no idea of hers. “There’s nothing more detrimental to singing than this modern mania for accuracy,” says Jenkins, sighing, before launching into an ear-splitting effort at the Queen of the Night’s aria.

Like Mike Jespersen’s elegant music room set, Gregg W. Brevoort’s production is smart and unfussy, hitting most of its comic marks. Chin high and vowels rich, the charming Hauman offers plenty of dowager yucks (she could even push it further); Schindele gracefully narrates the story while dashing off standards like “One For My Baby” and “Violets For Your Furs.” “Souvenir” lingers a little too long at Jenkins’ appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1944, even though costume designer Terri A. Lewis has fun with the diva’s succession of increasingly absurd outfits. Jenkins may have averaged five encores at her concerts, but less is more in this sweet but gossamer romp.

Charlotte Stoudt

“Souvenir,” Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 28. $32.50-$40. Contact: (818) 955-8101 or www.Falcontheatre.com  Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Constance Hauman and  Brent Schindele.  Photo credit: Chelsea Sutton.

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