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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Mame
Goodspeed Opera House

Also see Fred's review of Into the Woods

Mame
Louise Pitre and Judy Blazer
Mame, at the Goodspeed Opera House through July 7th, becomes far more of a treat during its thankfully shorter second act. A smash hit on Broadway during the 1960s, the musical (rather than, perhaps, this specific production) is not fully engaging. Goodspeed director Ray Roderick and a quite talented cast are not the problem.

The show, with book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Many of the developments occur at Mame's apartment located at Beekman Place in New York City. Little Patrick Dennis (Eli Baker), just 10, has lost his parents, and his nanny Agnes Gooch (Kirsten Wyatt) brings him to the home of his Auntie Mame (Louise Pitre). She is free wheeling and fun loving. Hence, she encourages her nephew to open a new window, so to speak, on each day. The relationship she forms with the boy is sweet and important—until the stock market crashes and Mame loses her financial backing. Bank representative Dwight Babcock (Paul Carlin) comes along and, taking on a mentor/guardian type role, shuffles Patrick off to a conservative school. Mame cannot hold a day job and even takes a turn, with her friend Vera Charles (Judy Blazer), at acting in a musical.

Eventually, Mame marries a rich and aristocratic man from Georgia named Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (James Lloyd Reynolds). The second act finds youthful Patrick yielding to his older self, a twenty-something Patrick (Charles Hagerty). Patrick (as a young man now) intends to marry a very snooty Gloria Upson (Kellyn Uhl). We all know that relationship will never actualize. Instead, Patrick ultimately falls for Pegeen Ryan (Kim Sava).

The trouble with Mame is that the plot details accumulate; instead of enlivening the proceedings, the first packet of scenes tends to take up space. This is not Roderick's doing, but he must facilitate the show. Fortunately, Vince Pesce, choreographing, has a few opportunities to stage dance numbers. His actors hotfoot with pizzazz and expertise late in the performance on "That's How Young I Feel."

The initial act ends on a high moment with the very much anticipated title tune, featuring Reynolds, actress Denise Lute as Mother Burnside, and an ensemble. "Mame," the song, remains animated and enduring. The second act, with six scenes, includes clear winners such as "Bosom Buddies" with Pitre and Blazer, and Pitre's solo entitled "If He Walked Into My Life."

The evening does have its virtues: Kirsten Wyatt, as Agnes Gooch, is constant slapstick hilarity. At first prim and sexually inexperienced, she is urged if not goaded by Mame and Vera to drink a bit, loosen up and live. Costumer Gregg Barnes gives her a shiny red dress and she transforms into the new Gooch, complete with makeover.

We know that Angela Lansbury claimed fame in Mame and Louise Pitre, wisely, does not emulate. Instead, Goodspeed’s leading lady, quite an asset, excels with her interpretation but does not dominate. Pitre establishes herself, realizes the character's promise, and does so without flying above the show. Judy Blazer, oftentimes on stage with Mame, is most effective as Vera. Eli Baker, embodying Patrick-the-younger, shows real talent for live stage. He is an impressive evolving actor. Still, Mame (as a whole) is not fully inspiring.

Mame continues its run at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, through July 7th. For tickets, call (860) 873-8668 or visit goodspeed.org.


Photo: Diane Sobolewski


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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