The famous line from Mame, “Live! Live! Live! Life is a Banquet and Most People are starving to death,” pretty much sums up the spirit of Jerry Herman’s 1966 Broadway classic MAME remounted Saturday night at Light Opera Works (LOW) in Evanston.
The story takes place in Manhattan in the “roaring ’20’s” with spunky socialite Mame, living her life to the fullest hosting cocktail soirees for her zany friends, partying all night and sleeping most of the day until a 9-year old boy and his nanny come into her life and her heart.
The boy, her nephew Patrick (Zachary Scott Fewkes) becomes her ward after the death of his wealthy father. Patrick’s assigned executor, the stuffy Mr. Babcock (Rick Rapp) objects to Mame’s unconventional way of living and tries to force her to send Patrick to prep school.
Backed by a 26-piece orchestra conducted by LOW’s Music Director and Conductor Roger Bingham (a staple at LOW through a long series of classical musicals and light operas since 1997), the show that played to a packed house was a real crowd-pleaser.
Vital to any production of Mame is the main character Mame. LOW’s Mame, Nancy Hays (Mame Dennis), making her Light Opera Works debut is the real deal. Returning to musical theater last year as Judy Garland in “The Boy From Oz for Pride Films and Plays”, Hays has also appeared at concerts as the opening act for celebrities including Tommy Tune, Rita Rudner, George Burns and others and worked extensively in television and internationally.
A Norwood Park resident, Hays has her own talent agency, Nancy Hays Entertainment Inc. and is mom to four talented children who have appeared on stage throughout Chicago. You may remember seeing her youngest child, Caroline Heffernan, six years ago as Scout in Steppenwolf’s wonderful production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as I did.
Perhaps because of her close call with death two years ago on an icy highway in Indiana, Hays makes a very believable Mame–the lady who wants to ‘open a new window everyday’ getting everything possible out of the banquet life offers.
Her spirit and enthusiasm are contagious.
Another character important to the story is Mame’s best friend, the glamorous movie star and alcholic Vera Charles played to the fullest by Mary Robin Roth. Roth is well known to Chicago audiences having appeared recently in Light Opera Works concert productions of HOLLYWOOD’S GREATEST SONG HITS and COLE PORTER’S GREATEST HITS and many other shows around town from the Lyric to the Marriott.
The chemistry between the two is evident and to see them perform their song and dance routines is a real treat.
Alicia Bernche (Agnes Gooch) returns to Light Opera Works, where she was Marian in THE MUSIC MAN. Her comedic performance, so important to the story, was spot on.
Little Patrick played by 10-year-old Zachary Scott Fewkes–already a theatre veteran–is a talent to be reckoned with–seemingly able to do it all from acting to dancing and singing. Fewkes recently appeared in the role of Colin Craven in THE SECRET GARDEN at the new Lake Forest Theatre and as Oliver in OLIVER! at Citadel Theatre.
The large Ensemble performed beautifully as they went through many transitions and costume changes with authentic clothes by Bob Kuhn that took them from New York to Georgia to the northeast.
The show has all the bells and whistles from spot-on direction by Rudy Hogenmiller, outstanding choreography by Clayton Cross and a picture perfect set designed by Adam Veness.
The top-notch design/production team includes Adam Veness (scenic), Andrew H. Meyers (lighting), Jaime Karas (props), Aaron Quick (sound) and Katie Beeks (production manager).
If you want to see this one you have to act fast as it is only at Cahn through next Sunday (times and performances are below).
Tickets and information
Where: Cahn Auditorium at 600 Emerson Street, Evanston, IL.
When: now through August 28th, performances: Sunday, August 21st 2 p.m., Wednesday, August 24th 2 p.m., Thursday, August 25th 2 p.m., Friday, August 26th 8 p.m.,Saturday, August 27th 8 p.m., Sunday, August 28th 2 p.m.
Tickets: Ticket prices start at $34 (25 and under half price). They can be purchased online at Light Opera Works or by calling 847-920-5360.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
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