There are some shows that when you mention the title, brings a smile to your face. Jerry Herman's 1966 work of perfection, Mame, is on the top of that list. Originally written in 1955, it became a hit Broadway play in 1957, a movie in 1958, an acclaimed Broadway musical in 1966, and in 1977, a hit disaster movie starring the much-loved Lucille Ball as Mame. In fact, the last major production I saw was with the late Juliet Prowse who danced up a storm in Lake Tahoe.
With a score that contains hit after musical theatre lovers' hit, and characters that are indubitably ingrained in our American psyche, Drury Lane has revived this classic at the most perfect time. Artistic Director William Osetek takes the reins of this long overdue revival and has assembled a dream cast, including Barbara Robertson and Alene Robertson as our favorite ‘Bosom Buddies', Mame Dennis and Vera Charles.
If you are going to tackle staging Mame, you can't go half way and Drury Lane has pulled out all the stops, from an exquisite set to dazzling costumes this Mame is a feast for the eyes.
But what make this show shine has always been the title character's infectious love of life and with Barbara Robertson's heartfelt performance, this is a Mame for the record books. Robertson acts, sings and dances the role as if she was born to play Patrick Dennis' beloved Auntie. The layers upon layers of subtext in this most well written of musicals allows for actors to really sink their teeth into their roles (far more than the play or Auntie Mame movie version) and Robertson takes advantage of all the highs and lows.
What is most amazing about this production is the performance of Liam Byrnes as Young Patrick. Byrnes is by far the finest and most well rounded actors I have seen tackle this role. His emotions are so real and raw that you immediately are drawn into the production from his first scene. Byrnes is a fine young actor who actually understands the lines he speaking, and this certainly pays off with his one on one scenes with Robertson and makes the number ‘My Best Girl' the moist poignant in the show.
Then there is Alene Robertson, one of the finest character actresses working in theatre. To prove this point, I recently did an interview with ‘Annie' Composer, Charles Strouse, who told me that other than Ms. Dorothy Loudon, Ms. Robertson was by far his favorite Ms. Hannigan. That is quite the praise, and deservedly so. No one delivers a one liner like Alene. Her deep voiced Vera Charles at times makes Bea Arthur sounds like a soprano. When the two Robertsons take off in ‘Bosom Buddies' you better hold on to your seat because you are on a flight of theatre perfection.
Kenny Ingram's choreography is true to the show's original dance sequences and Ben Johnson's musical direction is nothing but on the money for both solos and choral numbers. And what numbers they are. How many scores give you numbers like ‘Open A New Window' ‘If He Came Into My Life', ‘We Need A Little Christmas', ‘It's Today' and of course the toe tapping title song (led by the perfectly cast David Kortemeir)?
With the weather turning colder, instead of staying in and becoming a Windy City hermit, get you're a** to the Drury Lane Oakbrook and LIVE, LIVE, LIVE!!
Production Note: Barbara Robertson will be leaving the production on November 16th to resume her role as Madame Morrible in final months of ‘Wicked'. Kat Taylor will assume the role from November 19 to December 21st.
For a true evening at the theatre, and to celebrate one of the only dinner theatres left in this country, make sure you check out Chef Stan Brykf's Mame inspired holiday menu and of course the bar's Mame inspired cocktails! Before the show, my companion and I had a terrific spinach and artichoke dip, a wonderful Mesclun salad and for our entrees a Grecian Chicken and Chicken Asiago all cooked to perfection. With several Mame martinis, you are certainly going to have a rousing good time cheering on Ms. Robertson and company.
Mame runs through December 21, 2008 at the Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. For more information, including showtimes and reservations, please visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com