MAME Glitters at Goodspeed

 

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

The show “Mame,” is like building a baseball field in the wilderness. If you play a Jerry Herman musical at Goodspeed the audience will come. The composer of “Hello Dolly,” La Cage Aux Folles,” and other Broadway shows wrote the spirited music and lyrics. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee are responsible for the book, which is based on the novel by Patrick Dennis.

 

In “Mame” a wealthy aunt whose philosophy is to live life to the fullest, is entrusted with raising her orphaned nephew. This unconventional woman forms a strong bond and encourages her 10-Yr. old charge, Patrick, to experience a full life by introducing him to a variety of her friends, teaching him to make a perfect Martini (not to drink it of course) and taking him on a world tour that includes sights youngsters are not usually exposed to. To her chagrin, when Patrick grows up and attends college, he opts to engage with a silly girl from a narrow-minded, Darien CT, upper-class family. Naturally, Patrick’s desires and Mame’s values clash violently. It’s now up to the clever auntie to expose the meaning of “pretentiousness” -- which she manages to accomplish with dramatic flare.  The sub-plots are amusing but unimportant.

 

At Goodspeed, you won’t be able to take your eyes off Louise Pitre, the Tony-nominated star of Broadway’s “Mamma Mia.” As Mame, her perfect figure looks dazzling in the fabulous, 1920’s costumes created for the actress and the cast by Gregg Barnes. Pitre’s white hair, gown, and a luxurious, silver fox stole are a particularly stunning combination. Under Ray Roderick’s direction, Pitre sings, dances and interacts warmly with her stage nephew, Patrick, who is played by an equally talented and adorable cherub, Eli Baker. “Open a New Window” and “My Best Girl” are solid, star-quality duos that raise heavy, audience applause.

 

While she’s pretty to look at and strong in the main production numbers, there are times when Pitre seems to be pacing herself  “...now I go here and say that, then I go there and do that.” During the Peckerwood estate scenes the actress stands among the Southerners looking bewildered at what to do next. It doesn’t help any when the male ensemble of singing /dancers, outfitted in riding habits and top hats during “The Fox Hunt” number, are a rag-tag group. They come in all shapes and sizes, try to lift their legs uniformly but mainly pose on the wooden, stadium steps like amateur ball players. If this sloppy, crowded scene were to be left out completely, it wouldn’t be missed at all.

 

Otherwise, Judy Blazer is Mame’s wisecracking, actress friend, Vera Charles. “The Moon Song” which features Blazer and Pitre in a series of stage mishaps will have you rocking with laughter and the antagonistic “Bosom Buddies” number also has the pair playing off each other quite well. Kirsten Wyatt plays the naive nanny, Agnes Gooch, and steals the second act when she reveals how she followed Mame’s advice and opened her own wide window to the world (and accidentally got pregnant). The transition from the child to the adult Patrick, played by Charles Hagerty, is mastered with finesse, and the actor plays his role with tender sensitivity.

 

As a result of its widespread popularity, “Mame” at Goodspeed Musicals was extended

through July 7. Box Office: 860-873-8668

 

This article appears in “On CT and NY Theatre”/June 2012.

 

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