Jerry Herman’s Superb Music & Lyrics Still Enchant
by Lynne Stevens
From the start of “Mame,” we realize that we are following the memories of Auntie Mame’s nephew. After the teaser of grown-up Patrick appearing on stage, we eagerly await the opening scenes.
We’re thrown into the madcap life of eccentric Mame Dennis (exceptional Cindy Goldfield) and her bohemian clique. With her “seize the day” attitude, Mame invents a holiday just because. “It’s Today.!” It’s the late 1920s and her guests dance the Charleston, boisterously.
Young Patrick (precocious Azzy David) is dropped into the arty world of his father’s sister, his Auntie Mame. Although Mame has no experience rearing children, she knows what an interesting life should be.
Mame is determined that Patrick’s life will be exciting, not dull, even though his father dictated otherwise. Mame’s enduring refrain is “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death! Live!”
For each scene, Mame dons a new costume —sometimes two. Costume Designer Sheryl Weiss goes from a magnificent orange flowered kimono over purple lounge pants to an outrageous “woman in the moon” gown with stars and crescent moon headdress. Perfect 20s gear.
Mame’s nemesis, Dwight Babcock (wonderfully stuffy Jesse Caldwell), executor of her brother’s estate, takes his task seriously. He tries to find a suitable, conservative school for Patrick. We’re thrilled to see Mame get the better of Babcock with a little deceit on the matter of schooling.
Mame sings “Open a New Window.” encouraging “her little love” to try something new every day.
Open a new window
Open a new door
Travel a new highway
That’s never been tried before
. . . . .
The fellow you ought to be is three dimensional
Soaking up life
Down to your toes
Whenever they say you’re slightly unconventional
The 1929 crash and Depression put a damper on Mame’s carefree life. Now, she’s broke, and we see several hilarious examples of her ineptitude at all sorts of jobs. From a bit player in one of her friend Vera Charles’ (haughty Elizabeth Jones) shows, to manicurist. She’s just not suited for employment.
With Patrick home for the holidays, and everyone down in the dumps, it’s the perfect time to “Haul out the holly.” Mame and her household sing “We Need a Little Christmas,.” revived annually by Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and Idina Menzel.
By Act Two on opening night, the cast was really warmed up and what initially sounded tentative became full-on enthusiastic.
Scenic Designer Danielle Ferguson keeps the New York landscape, but we imagine traveling down to Atlanta to visit the estate of Mame’s friend Beauregard Burnside’s (versatile Joseph Alvarado). The cast celebrates the success of the inimitable Mame’s visit with the title song “Mame.” Patrick (suave Kurt Tijamo), away at school, misses the trip south: he is busy growing up. Mame is there to resolve his romantic issues.
There are so many wonderful songs in this musical but the one that gets me every time is “If He Walked Into My Life.” Mame wistfully questions whether she made the right choices when raising Patrick.
See “Mame” at 42nd Street Moon because the way the world looks now, “We Need A Little Christmas.”
“Mame” –book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee, music & lyrics by Jerry Herman, based on the novel by Patrick Dennis & the play “Auntie Mame” by Lawrence & Lee, directed by Becky Potter, by 42nd Street Moon, San Francisco. Info: 42ndstmoon.org – to November 19, 2023.
Cast: Joseph Alvarado, Jesse Caldwell, Azzy David, Mark Farrell, Cindy Goldfield, Nick Ishimaru, Tania Johnson, Elizabeth Jones, Larissa Kelloway, Lillian Kurtz, Joel Ochoa, Sarah Schori, Jillian A. Smith, Kurt Tijamo, and Elise Youssef.
The Band: Tim Fletcher, piano; John Trombetta, trumpet; Dana Bauer, woodwinds; Douglas Lippi, percussion; and Andrew Lawrence, bass.
Banner photo: The Ensemble of “Mame.” Photos by Ben Krantz Studio