Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Joe Wicht, who created last month's Hello, Dolly! in Concert, continued by presenting the Mame in Concert at Feinstein's in the Hotel Nikko on August 11, 12 and 13. He assembled seven outstanding singer/actors to perform the Jerry Herman score. This brought back many memories for me since I saw the original production staring Angela Lansbury and worked on the Warner Brothers film starring Lucille Ball.
The Mame cast first sang songs from the straight play Auntie Mame by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which starred Rosalind Russell. These were passing musical moments, not legitimate songs. The songs were "St. Boniface Fight Song," sung here by the entire cast; "Toora Loora Loora," sung by Jessie Cortez; the college song "O, Rumon U," sung by Joe Wicht; and "Chu Chin Chow," sung by Meg Mackay who was Mame. This was followed by Laura Arthur beautifully singing "Drifting" (in the movie Auntie Mame this was a musical instrumental theme. There were words to the song but they were never used.)
The actual songs by Jerry Herman from Mame the musical started with Laura Arthur (Gooch) and Jessie Cortez (Patrick) singing the quiet "St. Bridget" followed by the whole ensemble singing the buoyant "It's Today." Meg Mackay as Mame sang "Open a New Window," We Need a Little Christmas," "Bosom Buddies," and "If He Walked into My Life" with her melodious vocal cords. Sharon McNight as Vera hilariously sang "The Moon Song" ("the man in the moon is a woman") and a special song, "Vera," with lyrics by Tom Orr to the tune of "Mame." It was a hoot. She also sang "Bosom Buddies" with Meg Mackay. Jessie Cortez, who played mostly 10-year-old Patrick, sang "My Best Girl" and "The Letter/My Best Girl Reprise." He was pitch perfect as the young boy. Benn Bacot as Beauregard Jackson with his harmoniously energizing voice sang "The Fox Hunt" and the title song. Laura Arthur as Gooch nicely sang "Gooch's Song," and Branden Noel Thomas as Ito vividly sang "That's How Young I Feel."
Darlene Popovic was the narrator and provided scrumptious backstory morsels surrounding various productions, such as the story of the original Patrick in the Broadway production, Frankie Michaels, who was the youngest Tony Award winner. He had to sell his Tony when he was an adult to pay for his medical bills before his death. Other stories referred to Mary Martin originally set to star in the Broadway production; she passed and it was offered to Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Katherine Hepburn, among others, and they finally settle on Angela Lansbury. Popovic also sang "Loving You" with her vibrant voice, a song that was not in the original production but in the Warner Brothers film sung by Robert Preston.
All of this was held together by Joe Wicht on the piano and Darlene Popovic's impromptu chitchat.
For a complete line up at Feinstein's at the Nikko go to www.feinsteinsatthenikko.com.