Also see John's review of The Tin Pan Alley Rag
Jerry Herman's smash-hit musical comedy Mame premiered at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City on May 24, 1966. The show won three Tony Awards that year, and secured fame for co-stars Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur. Its book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which was adapted from their play Auntie Mame, was based on the novel Auntie Mame written by Patrick Dennis. The musical was revived on Broadway in 1983 at the George Gershwin Theatre.
In addition to its rich history on stage, Mame was released as a movie in 1974 starring Lucille Ball (the play Auntie Mame had been released on film in 1958 Rosalind Russell in the title role). This non-Equity touring production is based on a 1988 stage production originally directed by Dom Ruggiero. Though not without some minor flaws, this production is surely a pleasant visit with one of America's favorite musicals. Memorable songs are all in place, with a well mixed combination of pre-recorded orchestral tracks and live accompaniment.
Set in 1928, Mame is the story of a vivacious New York City socialite named Mame Dennis. Her life is changed when she becomes sole guardian of her orphaned nephew, Patrick. Mame sets out to show Patrick the world as she knows it, a world she sees with a considerable lust for life. As she puts it, "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!". The stock market crash of 1929 changes her life once more, but not her spirit. Flanked by her best friend, stage star Vera Charles, her "little love" Patrick, and her trusted employees Agnes and Ito, Mame weathers The Depression. Unexpectedly, she is swept off her feet by a gallant and wealthy suitor named Beauregard. Their blissful marriage ends suddenly several years later when he passes away. Mame goes on living her life to its fullest by loving those around her and helping her nephew Patrick find his way in his own life. She is forever a beloved Peter Pan.
With some lovely set pieces, this production is disappointingly missing backdrops. The plantation scene in Georgia has a bare stage with a white scrim. Not a tree limb or piece of Spanish moss in sight. Upson Downs in Connecticut is nearly as bare. Scenic designers also missed out on the opportunity to fully exploit Mame's ever changing New York apartment decor. Mame's three suspended portraits remain unchanged for the whole show. Heads up to the audio engineer who several times failed to turn on actor's microphones until after their first line of dialogue or singing.
A more careful eye is needed in regard to period appropriateness. Mame's 1929 Christmas decorations and hats are clearly modern equivalents whose designs and fabrics did not yet exist. Her Chinese housekeeper oddly has a modern brush cut hairstyle and goatee. After the "Man In The Moon" scene, a stagehand in the show-within-the-show walks onstage bringing on the ghost light as Mame sits in misery. The audience is treated to this male stagehand's nearly waist length hair in a pony tail, and he wears a black concert t-shirt (in 1929?).
Kate Andres as Mame and Eleni Delopoulos as Vera work well together, especially in "Bosom Buddies". Ms. Andres sometimes loses Mame's vivacious quality, however, and does not quickly enough establish believable warmth between herself and Patrick. Ms. Delopoulos is very funny in "The Man In The Moon" and needs to devote more of her time on stage to enjoying that side of her character and less of it to just acting drunk. Erica Livingston as Agnes really delivers in "Gooch's Song," but why does Agnes have a slight Southern accent? She and the other two ladies need to pick up their comic timing as their pacing adds unnecessary time to the fist act.
Ricky Oliver as big Patrick Dennis is really quite wonderful, and Russell Goetz as little Patrick Dennis shows impressive promise for someone so young. Alan Hoffman as Beau is indeed suave and charming. Unfortunately, Swaine Kaui as Ito seems to throw away the comedic possibilities of his role, and John Panichello as Mr. Babcock comes off as very inexperienced on stage.
Small moments here and there stand out: Cat Widdifield is perfectly bitchy as Sally Cato, and Steven Fuentes as Gregor gets big laughs with nary a line. But this show is about big moments. This cast ably supplies the big singing and dancing moments we look for in Mame, and that is what really counts in the end!
The Crest Theatre is a 323 seat historic theatre located in Old School Square in Delray Beach, Florida at the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Swinton Ave. For information on the Crest Theatre and it's season call 561-243-7922.
Candlewood International and Mainstage Artists Management presented the musical Mame at The Crest Theatre in Delray Beach on February 3, 4 & 5, 2006.