Tone-Deaf Tenderness

Max & Louie Productions, a mid-sized St. Louis theater nonprofit that staged the Grey Gardens musical last year, is back again with another foray into camp. This time, it’s the play Souvenir. The show is based on the true story of society matron Florence Foster Jenkins, a rich 1920s egomaniac who yearned to be a stage singer but had zero talent. In the show, she convinces a gay pianist named Cosmé McMoon to accompany her. Together, they hold recitals, which are terrible. But they’re so terrible that people want to see it for themselves — so she continues for the next two decades. Along the way, she marries Cosmé and becomes a legend. Eventually she ends up in Carnegie Hall, with disastrous results. As one New York Times reviewer noted in 2005, this play fleshes out why the gay community loves campy old ladies: Such adoration often comes from a “sincere admiration for the valiant excesses of women who refuse to accept their limitations, whether of old age, ugliness or, in Mrs. Jenkins’s case, unconditional tone deafness.”

Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, $20-$45, showtimes vary, Thurs. thru Sun., Dec. 14-31, The Marcelle Theatre in Grand Center, 3310 Samuel Shepard Dr., 314-795-8778, www.maxandlouie.com.

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