Last night I had the great pleasure to see Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins at the Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill, NY. The play was originally produced by the Off-Broadway York Theatre Company and ran from November 23, 2004 to January 2, 2005. Written by Stephen Temperley and directed by Vivian Matalon it starred Judy Kaye and Jack Lee. On November 10, 2005 the production moved to Broadway and ran at the Lyceum Theatre for 68 performances and fourteen previews. Kaye was nominated for both the 2006 Tony and 2005 Drama Desk Award for her performance.
The Bridge Street Theatre founders John Sowle and Steven Patterson first met in San Francisco in 1983. They formed a production company called Kaliyuga Arts in 1986 in Los Angeles and have been producing theatre together ever since. With the purchase of the Catskill, NY building in 2013 Kaliyuga Arts morphed into Bridge Street Theatre, a production entity that produces and presents subscription theatre as well as cabaret, recitals and many other programs. And I am so pleased that they did.
In 2014 the lobby of the theatre, known as The Speakeasy, was remodeled and on the small stage they presented over 20 performances of music, magic, and theatre. In 2015 public restrooms and a black box performing space (the “Raw Space”) were built. In 2016 they offered a subscription series of six shows and using a $105,000 grant from New York State Homes and Community Renewal created a fully-equiped theatre (the Mainstage) and inaugurated the space with the production of George M. Cohan’s The Tavern.
Currently running through March 26, 2017 is Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, a 2-person play, starring Alison Davy as Florence Foster Jenkins and Jay Kerr (also Music Director) as Cosmé McMoon, her accompanist and the narrator of the story. Excellent direction by Florence Hayle, gorgeous and authentic costumes by Kaitlyn Day, Sets and Lights by John Sowle, Sound Design by Carmen Boorgia, the Production Stage Manager is Caedmon Holland and the Dresser is Sue Ward. This is the story of a struggling musician meeting Miss Flo, as he refers to Florence Foster Jenkins, their 12 years together that culminates with her performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944 to a sold-out audience. I found the story to be so very moving— it is a commentary on life and one’s dreams. I’ve seen the movie Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant and this was an excellent addition to the story of this remarkable socialite who followed her dream.
This is a small and intimate Black Box Theater that can accommodate an audience of about 100 people. There are no “bad seats”; as for the lighting, sound, costumes, acting and staging I could have been in a Broadway theatre. This was truly professional theatre and I am thrilled to have it just ½ hour from my home.
Alison Davy and Jay Kerr, both outstanding actors and musicians, have a powerful connection, a bond so strong one forgets they are actors on a stage and not 2 people in a working relationship. The play is heartwarming, loving, funny, and sad.
Co-produced with Fort Salem Theater in Salem, NY Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins will play there on July 14, 15 & 16, 2017.
Coming up at Bridge Street Theatre is a cello concert with Garfield Moore on April 2 at 2pm.The next main stage production is a world premiere of The Official Adventures of Kiron and Jade by Kieron Barry. It will run from April 20-30.
During times when Bridge Street Theatre is not actively involved in presenting its own productions the theatre space will be available for other performance activities, including (but not limited to) theatre, dance, and music. Check out their website BridgestreetTheatre.org for their full season’s schedule. Seats are reasonable and there are several Pay-What-You-Can at the door dates.