News from Rob Glaubitz, Artistic Director
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Painted Sky Opera features OKC native Molly Cason Johnson as the comically terrible singer Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins continuing at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 and March 2 – 3; and at 2 p.m. Feb. 25 and March 4 at the intimate CitySpace Theatre within Civic Center Music Hall.
Based on real-life events, “Souvenir” depicts the unique story of Jenkins, who achieved fame in the 1940s for her tone-deaf recordings of operatic favorites as well as her sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall.
“I love this show partly because it presents both sides of Florence, who was a truly unique figure in musical history. ‘Souvenir’ shows how ridiculously awful her singing was, but it never mocks her or becomes mean-spirited,” said stage director Glaubitz. “Florence was a good person who genuinely thought that her singing was bringing joy to people. Of course, her singing was indeed bringing people joy, but not in the way she thought.”
Florence Foster Jenkins brought to life in “Souvenir”
The two-person play was written by Stephen Temperley in 2004 and focuses on the relationship between Jenkins and her long-suffering pianist, Cosmé McMoon, who played for her from 1929 until her death in 1944. Like the 2016 biographical film Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep as Jenkins, “Souvenir” details many important events for the unlikely singer-pianist duo, including their first meeting, their recordings, and their concert at Carnegie Hall.
“Souvenir” also features live performances of many of the songs that made Florence Foster Jenkins famous. By all accounts, Jenkins was regarded as the worst singer ever to perform at Carnegie Hall. She was infamously unaware that her concerts were popular only because her audiences loved to laugh at her inept and out-of-tune singing. In spite of her lack of vocal ability, Florence was also a major supporter of the arts and a talented pianist who was passionate about the importance of music to all parts of society.
Molly Cason Johnson takes on the challenge of bringing Florence to life in Painted Sky Opera’s production. Johnson graduated from Oklahoma City University and performed and taught in Texas for many years before returning to Oklahoma City in 2013. She has performed locally with CityRep and Lyric Theatre among other companies. She relishes the chance to present her interpretation of Florence’s unique vocal stylings.
“As a classically-trained singer, the chance to sing badly on purpose is a delicious and rare treat for me,” said Johnson. “I have loved the vocal prep. Our cats, however, are not so amused.”
The part of Cosmé McMoon is played by recent University of Central Oklahoma graduate Joey Harbert who also shows off his pianistic and vocal skills in this production. Both Johnson and Harbert are natives of Oklahoma City.
Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins is the second show in Painted Sky Opera’s 2017-18 season. Tickets are $30 for adults, with discounts for students, military, and seniors available in-person at the box office. Purchase advance tickets online at the Civic Center website at http://www.okcciviccenter.com or by visiting or calling their box office at 405.297.2264.
Credits: Banner photo and image inserts provided by Painted Sky Opera.
Painted Sky Opera’s 2017-18 season concludes in May with renowned American composer Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers. For more information, visit www.paintedskyopera.org.
Photo credit: (c) Ellen Appel
# # # # # glendaricecollins.com Updated 2-24-18