‘Mame’ charms ‘the husk right off of the corn’ at Lyric Stage
There’s nothing like a dame, particularly one like Mame. When the indomitable heroine of this hit-packed 1967 Jerry Herman musical is broke and has been fired from yet another job, she pulls out the tinsel weeks early because “we need a little Christmas/right this very minute.”
The plot may be improbable as we follow Mame’s financial ups and downs in Lyric Stage’s production at Irving Arts Center, but under the wise, understated direction of Penny Ayn Maas, the emotions in the songs that range from witty to wrenching, are true and uplifting.
Which is why, from the moment the fabulous 38-piece Lyric Stage Orchestra began playing the swoon-worthy overture under the unerring baton of Jay Dias, my brain, which had been cluttered with concerns of the day, transported, realizing: ”We need a little Mame/right this very minute.”
And oh, how the company delivers. Julie Johnson’s Mame powers the show with a big voice and heart in the role of Mame, a rich bohemian whose life is turned around when her brother dies, leaving her to take care of her nephew Patrick, played by the extraordinary, charming Jack Doke who, incredibly, is the same age — 10 — as the character he plays. The battle, not dissimilar to the one Herman would revisit in the 1983 Broadway blockbuster La Cage Aux Folles, is to raise a child who is inclusive, open and curious (“Open a New Window”). To pull this off, Mame has to face off against the rigid executor of Patrick’s father’s estate (James Williams), who represents the forces of conformity. He pushes Patrick’s enrollment in a boarding school and, as Patrick grows up, encourages his interest in a privileged and snobbish young woman.
The large cast spills over with performers who could star in their own right. Christopher Sanders, who starred in Lyric Stage’s South Pacific in 2015, brings his rich baritone to Mame’s beau, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside. Daron Cockerell, who starred in Lyric’s Annie Get Your Gun in Concert in 2015 and Anything Goes in 2016, steals her comic scenes as Agnes Gooch, an initially repressed nanny who points to Mame as the reason for losing her inhibitions. Operatically trained baritone Trevor Martin, an apprentice artist with the Fort Worth Opera who played a supporting role in Lyric’s Anything Goes, wows with feeling as the grown up Patrick, whose evolving relationship with his aunt proves key to the tale.
The show is performed in concert, which means that you won’t get elaborate sets and that the performers share the stage with the orchestra, but with the orchestra being the stars they are in their own right, you’ll enjoy seeing them there, too. So if you need a little Mame, hurry. The musical runs through Jan. 29. It’s good for what ails you and if nothing ails you, it will fortify you for tough times to come.
Plan your life
January 26–29 at the Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving. $26.50-$54.50. lyricstage.org. Performance reviewed was Thursday. Running time: 2 hours, 38 mins.