Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Mame, Oct 1, 2008 ****

Book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E Lee, Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman, by The Production Company
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Oct 1 to 5, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The musical of Mame was based on Patrick Dennis’s novel-memoir, Aunty Mame and, if the story is true, Dennis had a wild and woolly childhood living with his eccentric aunt’s madcap behaviour and surrounded by her bohemian friends.

The character of Mame Dennis is an ideal vehicle for the vivacious Rhonda Burchmore who employs plenty of her signature vibrato, rich and fruity vocal tones as well as elegant dance moves. The vivid, glamorous and unorthodox Mame is a role for a belter and for a performer who stands out in a crowd and Rhonda fits the bill.

Mame rises “at the crack of noon”, drinks martinis for breakfast and mixes with bohemians and actors. When she inherits her nephew, Patrick (Thomas New), she initiates the boy into the world of cocktails parties and sends him to The Laboratory of Life, progressive school where the students study while naked.

Gary Young directs the show deftly and Orchestra Victoria, conducted by Peter Casey, fills the State Theatre with big numbers including the show-stopping title song, Mame. There are plenty of memorable tunes such as the rousing ensemble number It’s Today, Open A New Window, We Need a Little Christmas and Bosom Buddies.

Although this production is staged without an extravagant design, it boasts some marvellous performers, vibrant choreography (Andrew Hallsworth) and a powerful and talented chorus.

Nicki Wendt plays Vera Charles, theatre star, infamous lush and Mame’s friend and rival. Wendt plays the acerbic, sozzled Vera with dry humour and a gravelly voice. Although she has a pitch problem singing Man in the Moon, her comic timing is excellent and her duet with Burchmore in Bosom Buddies is compelling.

Lara Mulcahy is simply a scene-stealer as Agnes Gooch, Patrick’s hilarious, blousy, myopic and lovable nanny. Her comedy is impeccable and she wins the audience with Gooch’s Song that is riddled with innuendo. Thomas New has charm as young Patrick and Alex Rathgeber (OK) as Older Patrick has a warm presence and lyrical voice.

Although it has dated, there was irony in the mention of the Great Depression and huge stock market losses during our current market. Hilariously Vera  quips, “Thank God I never put anything aside.”

Mame is an iconic piece of American music theatre with at least two great ensemble numbers and plenty of toe-tappers to keep the audience entertained.

Kate Herbert

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