[AD – Press tickets] I was given complimentary tickets to see Mame at Royal & Derngate in exchange for an honest review. Find out more in my disclaimer
The 50th revival of Mame is a true hidden gem that has been dusted off, given some glitz and sparkle and is ready to wow audiences at Royal & Derngate.
Mame Dennis is probably one of musical theatre’s all-time greatest heroines and iconic stage characters who Tracie Bennett brings to life on the Royal stage and returns after her stellar performance as Judy Garland in End Of The Rainbow – she and this star-studded cast lead the way in proving that old-time classics can be reinvented.
I am a huge Musical Theatre lover, so the idea of seeing Mame on stage for the first time excited me, especially that I was familiar with some of the songs too! I went with an open mind with what I was going to witness, but knowing Bennett was going to be starring, I had no doubts.
The show begins in 1928 in New York City, the stage and set is created to look smaller than what the actual Royal stage is, almost to mimic the old Vaudeville theatres back in the era.
I especially loved the attention to detail giving the stage an art deco look and everything moved swiftly from scene to scene without fuss.
Mame is dropped with the news that she will be looking after her orphaned nephew, Patrick, during the first dose of the 1920’s high society in the jazz age for the audience which sees Mame being the life of the party.
“Lifes a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Auntie Mame’s unconventional ways cause concern for some who speculate the worse for Patrick, but together, over the years and through ups and downs, Auntie Mame and Patrick prove that their bond is forever in the touching duet ‘My Best Girl’ which is a constant and familiar repetition throughout.
The 1920’s was an iconic year for fashion; from drop waist and beaded evening dresses inspired by flapper girls, to well-tailored pinstripe suits and fedora hats for the men; Philip Whitcomb, Set and Costume Designer, has hit the nail on the head for dressing the actors appropriately.
The cast and the small ensemble all stand-out during the show; everyone has a part to play and everyone brought high energy and flare. A big shout out to Jabari Braham and Aston Newman Hannington who were part of the ensemble and particularly captured my attention for being strapping and giving face and characterization in all they did.
Tracie Bennett’s portrayal of Auntie Mame was 10/10 for me. No question. Her emotion was raw and true during her solo song ‘If He Walked Into my Life’, her comedic timing was on point (I found myself particularly laughing during her first meeting with the Upson’s!), she delivered the role with such power, conviction and overall, is outstanding in this role that was made for her!
She is a spectacular actress that can make you go from laughing your head off, to feeling gut-wrenching emotion all in one show.
I truly hope she wins an award for her portrayal because I will certainly be voting for her!
It was a joy to see Harriet Thorpe, who played Vera, back on stage after seeing her years ago on stage as Madam Morrible in Wicked.
She’s the friend that everyone wants in their life; fun, care-free and a bit bonkers! Her and Bennett’s duet of ‘Bosom Buddies’ was fabulous, darling! – a match made in heaven as far as duo’s go!
I sometimes felt we didn’t see enough of Thrope, but I guess that’s what great acting is, when you crave to see more of them!
Beauregard, played by Darren Day, though only a small cameo role, made a big impression on stage.
The last time I saw Day on stage was when he performed as Captain Hook in R&D’s 2018’s pantomime ‘Peter Pan’, so seeing him as this suave, confident aristocrat and bachelor with southern charm you can’t resist was a nice change.
Plus, his accent was so convincing, he could have easily been native!
I won’t lie to you, some theatre that involves children can leave me feeling a bit uneasy and make the show feel a bit cringe-worthy; but not young, Lochlan White’s performance of Young Patrick.
He portrayed the right level of professionalism, youth and I thought his and Bennett’s chemistry on stage was endearing.
He’s got a solid career ahead of him, already boasting an impressive biography!
Other supporting highlights for me included Jessie May, who portrayed the slightly timid, square secretary, Agnes Gooch – her breakout performance of Gooch’s song was very comedic and full of innuendos!
Chase Brown as Older Patrick made me feel very sentimental in such a short amount of time seeing the young boy become a man, of which he delivered a touching and honest performance.
What I really adored about the show was the music and lyrics, written by Broadway legend, Jerry Herman (who sadly passed away on Boxing Day 2019 and was remembered in a touching tribute by the cast at the end of the performance) who also wrote the music to classics such as ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Mack & Mabel’.
There’s no denying that Herman’s music is recognisable and memorable, but it was made even more so thanks to the ensembles incredible dancing, choreographed by Director and Choreographer, Nick Winston.
My eyes were glued to all the routines, the high kicks, tap dancing, ballroom and more; there was something in there to please everyone and felt my heart sink into my stomach when Bennett was being thrown in the air!
Overall, I left the theatre with a rush of excitement and adrenaline over what I had just witnessed; one of the most classic Broadway stories retold once again on the stage of which I hope bigger audiences in bigger theatres get to witness soon!
This is a truly magnificent piece that is a joy to watch and is one that shouldn’t be missed by those and is one that will be spoken about for years to come by those lucky enough to watch it. You’ve only got until Saturday, so don’t miss out!
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