WINDY CITY TIMES
by Jonathan Abarbanel
This article shared 3824 times since Wed Oct 29, 2008
Playwright: Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; book by Lawrence & Lee. At: Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace. Phone: 630-530-0111; $28-$31; free parking. Runs through: Dec. 21. Photo by Johnny Knight.
The Robertsons Squared nearly carry it off. Casting doesn't get much better than svelte, long-limbed Barbara Robertson as Mame Dennis, backed up by basset-hound Alene Robertson as her 'bosom buddy,' Vera Charles. They wrap up the audience at the cock of an eye, the flick of a finger, the kick of a heel. Costume designer Tatjana Radisic keeps them dripping in dazzling gowns as Mame/Robertson ( vs. Vera/Robertson ) progressively passes through black, blonde, platinum, red and gray wigs to mark the passage of time and fashion.
Set chiefly in the 1920s and 1930s, this Mame also benefits mightily from the decor of Brian Sidney Bembridge, a scenic designer who always enjoys working on a large scale. In this case, his designs are dominated by enormous, gorgeous mural backdrops of women in High Art Deco style, worth the price of admission all by themselves.
Those very large plusses notwithstanding, this Mame doesn't quite soar as it needs to. It mostly looks good, the leads are strong and it provides solid entertainment, but it can't quite hide its odd-duck nature. After all, the central relationship is between a 10-year-old boy and his aunt, who's at least 25 years older. Mame's love interest—the southern gentleman Beauregard Burnside ( graciously limned by David Kortemeier ) —has only three scenes and one song ( OK, it's the title song ) before he's conveniently bumped off. The boy, Patrick, really doesn't have a song that's all his own. Indeed, besides Mame only one character—Miss Gooch—has a number that's entirely hers. The musical is a skillful, tuneful and faithful adaptation of the book and play upon which it's based, Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, but it absolutely must pulse with pizzazz.
Instead, as the show progresses one notices that the men's costumes aren't nearly as pitch-perfect as the women's; indeed, some of the men's suits are entirely of the wrong decade. Then, the choreography by the usually-impressive Kenny Ingram is standard-issue. It kicks high on occasion but it never struts, never excites. It's pleasant rather than exuberant. Also, the nine-piece band playing punchy original orchestrations is appropriately brassy and big, but was sloppy—far too many dropped notes—at the matinee I attended.
Notwithstanding the above, I enjoyed the strong performance of Liam Byrnes as young Patrick and the physical comedy of Kelly Cronin as Gooch ( watch out, Alene Robertson, this Cronin kid could steal a scene from you ) . It was pleasant, too, to find veteran Chicago performers in non-singing supporting roles, among them Frederic Stone as snobbish Claude Upson and Marilynn Bogetich as Mother Burnside. It's good to see Drury Lane producing bigger—a cast of 27 here—and better shows, although some are bound to be mixed bags, as is the case with Mame.
This article shared 3824 times since Wed Oct 29, 2008
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