Mame At The Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston
Is A Satisfying Banquet
Don’t Miss Out
Reviewed By Bobby Franklin
Through June 23 At The Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston
617 Lexington Street
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
One of my favorite lines from Mame is “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving”. The production of Mame now playing at the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham is a delicious feast of this classic Broadway musical. It will nourish your theatrical soul.
Led by uber talented Leigh Barrett as Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame, the entire cast is solid and tight. Ms Barrett who thrilled audiences in last year’s Lyric Stage production of Gypsy has met, or I would argue, even exceeded that performance here. Leigh Barrett delivers what is best described in the words of the great theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, “a high definition performance”. She is stage presence personified.
This is the story of the “live life to the fullest” Mame who has taken on the care of her nephew Patrick Dennis. Mame faces many obstacles in watching over young Patrick, including threats to have him taken away from her for her unconventional lifestyle, as well as financial ruin (the play is set in the 1920s and 30s when the stock market crash destroyed many people’s finances), but you can’t keep her down.
While Ms Barrett’s performance is something to behold, she is not on the Reagle’s stage by herself. In fact, she is accompanied by 38 other highly talented actors who light up the theatre along with a full orchestra, a rarity today and such a pleasure, led by Dan Rodriguez. Upon entering the theatre I could hear the musicians tuning up. This lends an air of anticipation and excitement to the evening.
Regarding the other performers; well, there are too many to mention by name and any omissions are in no way a slight against any of them. Eleven year old Ben Choi-Harris who pays young Patrick Dennis is a rising star who more than held his own playing opposite Leigh Barrett in the first act. I had to check to make sure this wasn’t a fifty year old veteran actor heavily disguised to look like a boy, as Ben looks as if he has been on the stage for years. The duet between Mame and young Patrick on My Best Girl is just beautiful. Their warmth and love are fully conveyed to the audience. Mame’s nephew also makes a fine martini.
Katie O’Reilly takes on the role of the homely and lovable Agnes Gooch, who learns to open up and let go; well, a bit too much. In Gooch’s Song, Ms O’Reilly shows incredible comedic timing while keeping her character real and sympathetic.
Mark Linehan, seen last year at the Reagle as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, plays Beau, the Southern Gentleman who falls for Mame and takes her hand in marriage bringing her love and wealth. He also ends up taking another fall, literally, while traveling with his new bride. Mr. Linehan has appeared on the Reagle’s stage eight times and once you see him you will understand why they keep bringing him back.
Mame’s house servant Ito is played by Simon Rogers. Mr. Rogers brings a depth to this loyal character while not sinking into caricature. The laughs are never at him, but with him. He, along with Vera, Mame, Patrick, and Miss Gooch are all family.
Speaking of Vera Charles, this has to be a dream role for many actors, and Maureen Keiller is having her dream come true. Ms Keiller is hysterical as the “world’s greatest lush” and dear but difficult friend of Mame’s. In fact, they are Bosom Buddies which they sing together in one of the many well known songs from the play. Ms Keiller also gives a hilarious performance on the number The Man In The Moon Is Lady.
At the beginning of Act II the role of young Patrick transitions to the older Patrick played by Will Burke. The reprise of the song My Best Girl is begun by young Patrick and moves smoothly to older Patrick. It’s a touching moment.
Mame is directed and choreographed by Eileen Grace and the stage is filled with music and dance. The large cast is always in synch, and if you love dancing you will not be disappointed. It is a treat to see and hear them work the boards.
If He Walked Into My Life Today is one of the better known songs from Mame, but it is often not heard in context and is usually thought of as a romantic song about lost love. Seeing it sung here by Ms Barrett you fully grasp the feelings of doubt and regret Mame has over whether or not she has made the right choices in how she raised Patrick. Every parent feels this way at one time or another.
The title song, which closes the first act, is a lavish musical number that fully allows the audience to see what a classic Broadway Musical looks like. The stage is filled with dancers and singers all moving about effortlessly while performing their hearts out. As I was exiting the theatre I could hear people singing and humming the tunes. That’s a nice feeling.
Artistic Director Robert J. Eagle founded the Reagle Musical Theatre of Greater Boston fifty-one years ago and it is a gift to have his creation still going strong after all that time. I suspect it easily has another fifty ahead of it. If you haven’t yet been there, well, what are you waiting for? If you have, I’m sure you won’t want to miss the current production. Mame is playing through June 23 and the theater is easy to find and has plenty of parking.
As the Mame household reminds us, there are times We Need A Little Christmas, and I couldn’t think of a better Christmas present with which to begin your summer.