MAME -- The Musical Senstaion
By Roz Friedman
Most of Goodspeed’s productions are pluperfect. If life is a banquet, as the heroine of the piece avers, this MAME is like an all-too heavy matzoh ball at a Seder or an all too stuffed buffet table an Easter dinner. In the opening scenes, it seems like a too large cast is crammed into James Youmans’ small set.
Jerry Herman’s songs like “Open A New Window,” “My Best Girl,” “We Need a little Christmas,” and “Mame,” are first rate. Auntie Mame is a fascinating character, elegant and at the same time bohemian, anti-establishment and at the same time very moral. White-haired Louise Pitre, who won a Tony nomination for the lead in Momma Mia, works so very hard, I hate to decry her portrayal; she is a great dancer, has a good voice, and a splendidly slim figure to model all the 17 stunning gowns Gregg Barnes has designed for her. Her flaws lie mostly in her lack of gracefulness, and her projection of coldness and lack of emotion when acting or i.e. singing the soliloquy, “If He Walked into My Life Today.”
Her only living relative, 10 year old nephew Patrick, who comes to stay with her in NY when his father dies, is embodied by Eli Baker. This young man, with a round cherubic face framed by light brown curly hair, a voice as clear as a bell and real dancing feet, is extraordinary in the part. Matching him in expression and humor is Kirsten Wyatt, an hilarious Agnes Gooch, nanny and secretary, who, when she becomes pregnant sans a husband, manages to bring a strong voice and a sense of humor to a pretty dull plot. Also effective are James Lloyd Reynolds, a handsome Beauregard, her traveling husband, and Charles Hagerty as Patrick, aged 19-29.
Judy Blazer is fine as Vera Charles, the always tipsy actress and Mame’s best friend.
Their duet, “Bosom Buddies,” is well-done and fun. Vincent Pesce’s choreography is spirited, but I wonder about the direction here by Ray Broderick. In the tenth and last scene in the first act, Mame is at Peckerwood, Beau’s Southern plantation, being saluted by a plethora of men, at the end of a Foxhunt. Ms. Petrie does not seem to know what to do with herself. She smiles and laughs and shuffles around until late into the dance she joins the line.
Mame will play in an extended run through July 7 at Goodspeed.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO