Review by: Paul Towers, 9/1/20
Mame by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E Lee, music & lyrics by Jerry Herman based on the book by Patrick Dennis
Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston
Produced by Aria Entertainment & Ray Rackham
At Royal & Derngate, Northampton: 7 – 11 January 2020
“a hugely enjoyable romp”
Mame Dennis is the swinging, party loving aunt that any teenage boy would want and young Patrick Dennis, recently orphaned, gets just that when he is unceremoniously dumped on his only living relative. Mame is the epitome of the Roaring Twenties until the Depression leaves her penniless. Together with her ‘bosom buddy’ actress Vera Charles she sails through the peaks and troughs of life with an irrepressible joie de vivre trying her hand at an array of jobs to keep her and her nephew’s heads above water. Eventually she bags herself a rich husband, Beauregard (Darren Day) who, conveniently, falls to his death while mountain climbing leaving her a very rich widow. Newly solvent Mame resumes her hedonistic lifestyle, this time with Patrick’s son, Peter.
Jerry Herman fashioned a hugely enjoyable romp through various songs pushing Lawrence & Lee’s story along with both outrageous numbers like Bosom Buddies and more mawkish ditties like My Best Girl.
Having originated at the intimate Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and currently enjoying a run at the relatively bijou Royal & Derngate in Northampton, director and choreographer Nick Winston has had to be very creative with the dance numbers. I would love to see this production transfer to a bigger stage to give full reign to the dance routines.
The cast is lead by Tracie Bennett as Mame and Harriet Thorpe as Vera Charles. Both of these ladies have bags of comedic experience which is put to good use here. Ms Thorpe would be in danger of upstaging any other actor besides Bennett. But the two of them spark off each other to great effect; Harriet is a mistress of the sly vocal inflection whereas Ms Bennett is great at physical slapstick. Together they are an unbeatable team. Tracie Bennett more than keeps up with the talented dance ensemble as she high kicks with the best of them in a series of glamorous outfits.
This production is a worthy tribute to Jerry Herman who died last month
So far the only ongoing tour date is to Salisbury Playhouse from 21 – 25th January but this show deserves to keep travelling. Catch it while you can.
Royal & Derngate https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/