Theater Review: Drama Guild Offers Up A Banquet In 'Mame'

By: Joan Aucoin

Topics: Local Theater

“My Aunt is so big hearted, when anyone is in trouble, she comes to the rescue!” speaks young adult Patrick Dennis in the closing scenes of the musical “Mame,” now playing at the Chatham Drama Guild through Aug. 21.

Bravo to Bridget Williams in fine voice and gorgeous costumes, for her beautiful, lively, lovely Mame, onstage for summer family audiences to enjoy. Mame and her loving nephew, eccentric friends, and bosom buddies are alive and well. The cast, with two months of rehearsals, is large, all volunteers, many with accomplished theatrical backgrounds, all under Pam Banas’ keen direction with Geraldine Boles’ musical direction and accompaniment to Jerry Herman’s music and lyrics. Bravo to the production staff. Scenery and set designs are outstanding.

The cast and crew truly embrace Mame’s theme: “Life is a banquet and most are starving to death.” “It’s Today,” let’s celebrate. Based on the 1955 novel “Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis, the musical was originally titled “My Best Girl” before opening on Broadway in 1966. A young Patrick (10) addresses the audience as the show then begins in Mame’s New York apartment just on the eve of the Great Depression. Friends gather for merry making, cocktails, toasts, and the doorbell rings. Young Patrick arrives to his new home. Mame’s late brother has left the boy to her care with banker Dwight Babcock as trustee.

Toby Goers, at 10 years of age, portrays young Patrick with the stage presence of a seasoned actor. Speaking to the audience, playing Mame’s trumpet gift, or singing “Open a New Window” duet with Auntie Mame, Toby is a joy to behold. “My Best Girl” professes their love for one another as their life progresses. Joe Theroux is the stodgy banker Dwight Babcock scolding all at the party and demanding Patrick go to boarding school in Massachusetts, and not the freethinking school Mame has chosen in NYC. Glen Starner-Tate plays Beauregard Jacket Puckett Burnside, the Southern gentleman with great flair. Being Mame’s first customer as a failed manicurist, serving bourbon before the Fox Hunt, or proposing marriage to Mame in a dashing red velvet jacket, Starner-Tate is applauded in the rousing number “We Need a Little Christmas” as the Depression hits. Mame is poor but Beauregard holds her heart and hand and pays the bills. At Beauregard’s Southern Peckerwood Plantation, the audience cheers to the “Fox Hunt” when Mame rides Lightening Rod. It’s Mame’s Day and the South will rise again in the show’s best scene as all sing “Mame.” The plot twists and turns. Beauregard has an untimely fall while taking Mame on a world tour. Mame is now wealthy. Devin Massarsky becomes Patrick (age 19-29) with a polished performance, reprising “My Best Girl” after Mame’s teachable moments.

Deb Mahaney plays actress Vera Charles, who is famous but a bit tipsy. Sheila Jamieson is the famous publicist Ms. Lindsay Woolsey who convinces Mame to write her memoirs. Amy Jane Kneppers is Secretary Agnes Gooch who finds herself with child and unmarried. Rachel Walman is Gloria Upson, Patrick’s pretty fiancé debutante. Lizzy Smythe and Bragan Thomas are over the top playing Gloria’s snobbish and bigoted parents setting their demands for the engaged couple to honey and rum and total control. Pam Banas becomes Madame Branislowski and Sally Cato. Lindsay Massarsky plays Pegeen Ryan, the interior decorator who truly captures Patrick’s heart. 

“Moon Song,” “Bosom Buddies,” “Gooch’s Song,” “That’s How Young I Feel,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “It’s Today” and the reprise will have you singing along. The show ends with Mame taking little Peter Dennis, her grandchild, on a tour to see the world. Cora Goers at 5 played the little boy. I had the pleasure of sitting near Toby (10) and Cora (5) Goers’ parents who spoke of their children’s love of performing onstage. Bravo to the Goers family for their dedication to live theater. A fun fact about Jerry Herman speaks of him being a young boy, coming home from school, to his home all festively decorated as he asks his own Mother, “Why? It’s not a birthday! It’s not a holiday!”  Herman’s Mother replied, “It’s Today!” And the rest is history.

Details:
“Mame”
At the Chatham Drama Guild, Crowell Road, Chatham
Through Aug. 21.
Information and reservations: 508-945-0510, www.chathdramaguild.org.