Light Opera Works always puts on beautiful, lush, user-friendly musicals with lovely music, and “Mame,” playing through 8/28, is no exception.
This story gets its substance in part from the performances of its stars, including Nancy Hays as Mame Dennis, Zachary Scott Fewkes and Justin Adair as endearing Patrick Dennis (at different ages), Alicia Berneche as nanny Agnes Gooch, and Mary Robin Roth as world-weary diva Vera Charles. The actors make this a solidly appealing endeavor, with skillful singing, endearing emotional hooks, and expansive humor. I would have liked to see a more flamboyant, larger-than-life Mame, but Hays was competent and charismatic. I can’t complain.
It’s the enduring story of the deep love between young Patrick Dennis and his progressive aunt, to whom he comes following the death of his father, during the 1920s-1940s. It’s a funny, light, uptempo tale with a progressive protagonist, coming into contact with the more “acceptable” (also racist) world of polite society. Maybe a little too light, frankly – I didn’t quite understand how Mame was so quickly accepted into Southern society upon her introduction to the family of future husband Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside. Some plot points were clearly glossed over, but it didn’t really detract from the story.
Songs in this show include “Open A New Window,” “We Need A Little Christmas,” “My Best Girl,” and “Bosom Buddies.” The numbers are well-directed, the choreography is evocative of past eras, and the songs are catchy. “Bosom Buddies,” sung by frenemies Mame and Vera, was a favorite, and “My Best Girl,” a duet with Mame and Patrick, packed an emotional punch.
I’ve never seen a production of “Mame” before, so I can’t do a well-informed comparison, but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this musical. It wasn’t the most magnificent musical I’ve ever experienced, but it was good, and I’m glad I saw it. You will be too.
“Mame” is playing at the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University, 600 Emerson (street parking is easily available) through 8/28 – evening performances take place on Friday, August 26 and Saturday, August 27. For tickets starting at $34, visit lightoperaworks.org.