Exuberant and dazzling, the Production Company’s Mame is a tender piece of musical theatre which will impress and entertain.
Mame delineates the story of a bohemian socialite who becomes the legal guardian of her recently orphaned nephew, Patrick. Mame, played by Rhonda Burtchmore, is a bugle-blasting, merry-making party girl surrounded by boozed-up punch bowls, riotous wealthy socialites and eccentric intellectuals all hell bent on giving “life quite a tumble”. Patrick disrupts the boisterous frivolity amongst which Mame lives, arriving with strict instructions for a conservative Presbyterian upbringing, to be enforced at any cost by his tightly wound trustee Dwight Babcock, played by Grant Smith. So begins the story – and conflict – of Mame, as the collision of bohemian and conservative ideology propels a series of madcap adventures in which Mame fights to keep Patrick “three dimensional [and] soaking up life”. Set amidst the giddy opulence of the mid-1920’s New York, Mame is punctuated by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, spanning to World War II.
Rhonda Burchmore’s portrayal of the brassy, “unconventional” Mame, is delightfully charming and vibrant. The on-stage dynamics generated by Burchmore and co-star Nicki Wendt who plays Mame’s inebriated baritone best friend Vera Charles, are funny and entertaining particularly in the songs ‘It’s Today’ and ‘Bosom Buddies’. Lara Mulcahy, who makes her debut with the Production Company, brings a warmth and amiable candour to nanny Agnes Gooch while eliciting uproars of laughter from the audience as a result of her Mame-inspired mishaps.
Burchmore, Wendt, Mulcahy and Kaeng Chan, who plays butler Ito, wonderfully deliver the comic dialogue and slapstick humour contained in Mame. The comic exchange that occurs between rivals Mame and Sally Cato MacDougal, brilliantly embodied by Ana Maria Belo, as they battle for the affections of Georgian aristocrat Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, played by Robert Grubb, is perfectly pitched. The extravagance of the song ‘Mame’, sung by Grubb and the company is visually stunning, incorporating brilliant choreography by Andrew Hallsworth.The character of young and grown up Patrick Dennis, played by Thomas New and Alex Rathgeber respectively, is developed with subtlety. Both New and Rathgeber embody Patrick with sensitivity, emotively conveying his journey with Mame, particularly through the song ‘My Best Girl’.
Conducted by Musical Director Peter Casey, Orchestra Victoria bring a stylish flair to the production, holding a prominent place on the stage. Rather than compromise the performance space, the presence of the Orchestra evokes a glamour which brings to life the time and place of the musical.
Mame, which was first performed for Australian audiences in 1968, has an important place in the history of musical theatre in Australia. This year, the Production Company celebrates “ten glorious years” by performing the same musical which launched the company a decade ago.
The Production Company’s rendition of Mame is cleverly executed, brimming with humour and bursting with musical vivacity.
Based on the novel Auntie Mame written by Patrick Dennis, Mame is a versatile and appealing story which has been adapted for both screen and stage. Written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the musical Mame is witty and entertaining, oozing charm and talent in a bid to rekindle “the glory of life.”