When Michael Price and the producers at Goodspeed Musicals asked me to direct Mame to open their 49th season, I was beyond excited. Delivering this lavish musical with its thrilling Jerry Herman score, big, bold and stylish dances and its smart and funny book to audiences at Goodspeed’s jewel box of a theatre seemed like a thrilling idea. As we’ve discovered lately, there is simply nothing more exhilarating than experiencing these bigger musicals, like Mame, in Goodspeed’s intimate house…a space where you not only hear and see the show, you literally feel it!
One of my early memories of Mame is hearing the cast album as I painted sets with my comrades for our high school musical…the LP was on the “playlist”. I had never seen the show. But hearing the score, I knew it was big and beautiful. And now that I’m in production, I have discovered that my initial instincts were spot on. Mame is big and beautiful in music, dance, and design, with a story and characters that are honest and bigger than life. And, thanks to Goodspeed, I have the great fortune to be working with an extraordinary team of designers and artisans to bring this joyous opulence to the stage. James Youmans has given us a set that architecturally transforms in a cinematic way, always giving the audience a full look. Even in reading the book that Mame is based on, you know how important the clothes are to the central character and the story at large. Gregg Barnes has simply created some of the most beautiful costumes I’ve seen in any show on any stage.
And wearing those clothes, and telling this wonderful story through song and dance, we have an amazing cast of twenty-two triple threats, led by the illustrious Tony-nominated Louise Pitre and esteemed Broadway veteran Judy Blazer. The dances, created by Vince Pesce, are big and bold and in a variety of brassy Broadway styles that mirror Mame’s journey from the outrageous 20s to post-war 40s, from the Charleston to the Jitterbug.
For me, the joy has been looking at Patrick Dennis’ story of his Auntie Mame and its many incarnations from book to stage to screen to stage and back to screen. It is clearly a very special and unexpected love story that remains more than relevant today. With everything happening in the world today I find myself wondering, “What would Auntie Mame say?” I’m sure she would enlighten us in a fun and entertaining way. This strong woman lives authentically, bigger than life, embracing it for all life has to offer. Perhaps that’s why this story continues to be told. As artists, along with all who love the arts, I think we are attracted to Mame and to the possibility of finding love anywhere and everywhere, living life in the moment and to its fullest! It’s no wonder Jerry Herman decided to turn the story of Mame into the glorious musical we still adore!