“Mame,” the 1966 Broadway hit with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, is a jazzy, pizzazz-y musical comedy with a stellar cast and an orchestra hitting all the right notes.
The performance not only ‘coaxed blues right out of the horn’ but also coaxed the audience to a standing ovation.
After a rousing overture, the show opens quietly with nanny Agnes Gooch, brilliantly played by Kirsten Wyatt, singing to “St. Bridget” for protection from the wickedness of New York, while escorting Patrick, Auntie Mame’s nephew and new ward, to Mame’s luxurious apartment on chic Beekman Place.
If you go...
WHEN: Through July 7
WHERE: Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main St., East Haddam, Conn.
PHONE NUMBER: 860.873.8668
It’s 1928 and Auntie Mame is joyously brought to life by Tony-nominee Louise Pitre at a cocktail party singing “It’s Today.” It’s a gathering of eccentric and hedonistic guests, which. helps set the energetic pace for the rest of this effervescent musical.
Although Patrick has been delivered to Mame earlier than expected, she nonetheless is overjoyed by his arrival. She vows to teach him to enjoy life and all its pleasures in the delightful song “Open A New Window.” 10-year-old Patrick (Eli Baker) has a beautiful voice and sweetness that completely captures Mame’s heart.
Ms. Pitre is a vibrant and exuberant Mame whose voice easily reaches the last seat in the balcony. And her commanding stage presence makes it difficult to look at anyone else! For anyone who has seen Mame on Broadway (play and musical), road companies and the film, Ms. Pitre’s interpretation is a bit brassier and broader in this revival. Her second-act anthem, “If He Walked Into My Life,” sung with pathos shows the glitz and glamour of her life are meaningless without her nephew’s love.
Mame’s alcoholic friend Vera (Judy Blazer) is played a bit too timidly. The director has used light hand, and Ms. Blazer holds in her claws, even in the comically bitchy number "Bosom Buddies." She does her best work in “The Moon Song” where she takes center stage and shows off her acting talent and big voice.
Charles Hagerty (Older Patrick) is as handsome as his voice is beautiful. He is believable as the product of years of Auntie Mame’s tutelage. Gooch (Kirsten Wyatt) comes to life in the second act as she brings down the house with “Gooch’s Song” as she surprises with her glorious vocalization and deft comedic timing.
James Seol (Ito) who is onstage almost as much as Mame is always quietly and charmingly very-much-in-the moment. During his turn with Mame, Agnes, Patrick and Beau in the infectious” We Need A Little Christmas,” he sparkles like tinsel.
James Lloyd Reynolds (Beau – husband) is fine as a southern gentleman. Paul Carlin gets the most of his part as Mame’s overwrought financial trustee.
Director Ray Roderick and choreographer Vince Pesce give the production numbers a generous sprinkling of the spectacular. The most sensational of these ends the first act with the show-stopping anthem “Mame.” The stanch southern gentry celebrate the arrival of Mame with gusto as the red-jacketed hunters line-kick while singing, “Your special fascination’ll, prove to be inspirational, we think you’re just sensational Mame!”
Of all the dances, the only one which could have been trimmed was the over-long avant-garde dance vignettes during “Open A New Window.” Less is more.
The cast and ensemble, all deserve many rounds of applause. We spotlight Denise Lute (in a raucous portrayal of the overbearing and strongly opinionated Mother Burnside), Kelly Uhl (as the pretentious, bubble-headed Gloria), Beau Landry (Junior and Gregor -, a flamboyant hairdresser, whose indignant exit had the audience roaring with laughter) and the terrific young Lucas Schultz (Peter).
Scenic designer James Youmans created a stylish Beekman Place apartment spanning 1928 through 1946. Only the Darien barn on the Upson’s farm estate was a disappointment. It was too shabby to be upscale Fairfield County pseudo-farm chic.
Gregg Barnes’ costumes celebrate the glamour of the flapper age and the 1930s. His talent brings champagne-sparkling sophistication to the cocktail party scene and the blousy southern decadence to the Dixie-belles.
Lighting by Charlie Morrison and sound by Jay Hilton deserve high praise. How refreshing to see a show where the actors can be SEEN, and the songs can be HEARD.
Music Director Michael O’Flaherty is celebrating 21st hit season at Goodspeed Musicals. William J. Thomas is assistant music director. Dan DeLange’s superb orchestrations made a handful of musicians sound like a Broadway orchestra.