THE GAY ICON “AUNTIE MAME” ARRIVES TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS AND OPEN WINDOWS FOR ALL OF US
42nd Street Moon stages the classic Jerry Herman musical MAME. There isn’t a generation who doesn’t need to be reminded that life is a banquet, or for whom Mame opens doors for … doors they never even dreamed existed.
Review by Vince Mediaa
The holiday season brings one of the classic Broadway diva’s to the 42nd St Moon stage. MAME The Musical is now on stage at the Gateway Theatre through November 19th. This is one musical that we don’t see staged much here in the Bay Area so I was pleased to finally see this classic Jerry Herman, Jerome Lawrence production. The term “Auntie Mame” is important to the gay community, it refers to a person who mentors and opens new windows for us. My Auntie Mame was the great KGO reporter and friend Paul Wynne, one of the first gay men to cover his final days with HIV before his death. He opened many windows for me and others during the 90’s.
This MAME company is charming and features a stunning cast including the captivating Cindy Goldfield as Mame. Directed by Becky Porter she says the slight changes to the original musical are subtle “(our) version of bringing to light less produced musicals that deserve to be seen coupled with their commitment of making revisions that keep the spirit of the show intact while making meaningful and important updates is the number one reason I love working here.” “MAME is a celebration of life – living with joy and optimism, no matter your situation,” says Artistic Director Daniel Thomas. “It’s also about found family: They share life’s joys and sorrows and adventures with you, and they’ll always be there for you. And who else but the great Jerry Herman could write a score that so brilliantly shares that message? You’ll leave the theatre singing and smiling!” Music director Tim Fletcher and Choreographer Lori Wood bring a nostalgic sound and feel to the 1930 depression era and MAME charm.
The eccentric, fabulous Auntie Mame is one of the most enduring musicals of the 20th century. She first appeared in Patrick Dennis' 1955 novel, and has been portrayed by three great legends, Rosalind Russell (in the play) Angela Lansbury in Jerry Herman's musical and Lucille Ball in the film version. Why is our “Auntie Mame” also such a gay icon; Mame strikes a balance between strength and all heart. She takes a boy under her wing and introduces him to the finer things in life. Mame is the smooth cultural woman. Every LGBTQ person deserves that one person who grabs them by the arm and assures them that “I’m going to open doors for you, doors you never even dreamed existed.”
Patrick, played by the young actor Azzy David, is alongside his guardian Agnes Gooch played by the superb Else Youssef, opens the story and sings “St Bridget '' as they prepare to meet Partrick’s Aunt. Goldfield enters the show with the company in “It’s Today” and it's a fun number as we meet some of her friends. Mames brother has just died, and his orphaned young son Patrick is placed in the care of his freewheeling sister. Mame loves the boy instantly, and he gives her life a new purpose: “I’m going to open doors for you, doors you never even dreamed existed.” Soon enough, she encounters her antagonist Dwight Babcock, played by the dapper Jesse Caldwell the boy's trustee, who is determined to give him the conservative upbringing his father intended.
Azzy as Patrick confidently stands vernable tilting his head down slightly to look at his aunt with humble admiration. He sings “My Best Girl” to his Aunt and young Azzy does well; especially when he hugs Goldfield - he becomes Patrick. When both Azzy and Goldfield sing “Open a New Window” with the company, Lori Woods' clever choreography, the champagne bottles pop. Mame's lines are as sharp: rejecting olives from a martini because they "take up so much room in such a little glass". We also meet her friends – the broadway diva and alcoholic Vera, played by the vibrant Elizabeth Jones and Acacius, played by Kurt Tijamo the headteacher of a nudist school – as she begins to introduce Patrick to a world of new people, travel and fun.
Mame’s butler, Ito, played by the terrific Nick Ishimaru, his performance added an air of humor and his care for her every need. Nanny Agnes Gooch, is played by the crowd pleaser Elise Youssef. Throughout the musical her comic timing is perfect and her skill as the awkward and virgin sidekick is lovely. Mame helps her with her self-image, she leaves for a while to explore the world. Agnes’ returns pregnant and she sings “Gooch’s Song” ; it is one of the best numbers in the second act.
There's no denying the star of this show is Cindy Goldfield. As soon as she enters for her first scene floating down a staircase you know you're watching a classic diva. She's incredibly charming and instantly you feel connected to her as she sings “We Need A Little Christmas” with Patrick, Gooch and ito. In the second act Mame sings 'If He Walked Into My Life', an emotionally charged unforgettable ballad. Goldfield conveys every emotion through the character's colorful journey. Mame meets the wealthy Beau Burnside who she marries, played by local favorite Joseph Alvarado who sings the banner song “Mame” with the entire cast as Mame visits the south. Mamma Burnside is played by the marvelous Tania Johnson who welcomes Mame reluctantly to her family.
Other highlights include the older Patrick played by the confident Kurt Tijamo, he sings a reprise of “My Best Girl” and proves his flawless voice and passion as the older college co-ed. Julian A Smith plays his snobby girlfriend Gloria, and Mrs and Mr Uspson are played by Alvarodo and Johnson. With a smaller cast most of the leads play two characters including the skillful Mark Farrel as Lindsay Woolsey and many other characters including an agent.
Amanda Stuart's art deco inspired set is effective with a staircase and open windows that change moods for each number. Lighting designer Danielle Ferguson and Lyle Barrere’s Desired Effects kept the open windows colorful. The many party scenes are sparkling with costume designers Sherly Weiss, Adrian Altaffer, Denise Altaffer and Grace Teo creating some 1930’s deco gowns for Mame, Vera and the cast. Stage managers Alicea Lerner and Cali Gomez kept the 15 member cast on cue. Becky Porters direction and script changes are subtle an added a nice frame to the story, including older Patrick seen during the overture. Music Director Tim Fletcher and his four member band are part of the set just outside the many windows. A highlight was Fletcher's arrangement of the anthem “Mame”.
MAME is many things; She loves life, she’s sophisticated, she’s biting sarcastic on purpose and sometimes despite herself. But she also represents unconditional love. But the true secret to Mame is her warmth. The audience knows that she loves fiercely and unconditionally, and they will follow her anywhere. Mame also creates a space that doesn’t just tolerate queerness; it celebrates it. There are no gay characters in the script yet the many cocktail parties reveal gay friendly partygoers. This production is an elegant bottle of champagne, a cocktail best served chilled and with smiles. It's the most charming drink you will experience for your pre holiday musical. You will leave the theatre wishing that we had an Auntie Mame. I recommend you bring your own champagne.
42nd Street Moon Presents
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee
Directed by Becky Potter
Music Director: Tim Fletcher
Choreographer: Lori Wood
MUST CLOSE NOV 19th
Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111.
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours and 40 minutes, with an intermission.
TICKETS: $30 - $78 at 42ndstmoon.org/mame or (415) 255-8207
Photo’s by Ben Krantz Studio
Joseph Alvarado , Jesse Caldwell*, Azzy David, Mark Farrell*, Cindy Goldfield*, Nick Ishimaru, Tania Johnson*, Elizabeth Jones, Larissa Kelloway, Lillian Kurtz, Joel Ochoa, Sarah Schori, Jillian A. Smith, Kurt Tijamo, and Elise Youssef*
CRAFT TEAM Director: Becky Potter, Music Director: Tim Fletcher, Choreographer: Lori Wood, Stage Manager: Alicia Lerner*, Assistant Stage Manager: Cali Gomez*. Lighting Designer: Danielle Ferguson, Costume Designer: Sheryl Weiss, Scenic Designer: Amanda Stuart, Technical Director: Rover Spotts
MY AUNTIE MAME AND TURE HERO - JOURNALIST PAUL WYNNE
He guided myself and thousands of others threw open windows, on a shoot with him I was a young producer new to SF gay community and he told me "Vince I am going to be your Auntie Mame, you will love San Francisco"
NEW YORK TIMES FEATURE