VA Rep’s “Mame” is a visual feast and perfect for the holiday season
Read More: Alexander Sapp, Audra Honaker, Auntie Mame, Brandon McKinney, Desirée Roots Centeio, Emily Skinner, Jerry Herman, Jody Ashworth, Mame, Nightlife, November Theatre, Theatre, Virginia Repertory Theatre
Virginia Repertory Theatre’s holiday musical offering this year is “Mame,” written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and based on the novel by Patrick Dennis.
“Mame” centers around Mame Dennis, played by Emily Skinner, a well-to-do bohemian socialite with a fabulous inner circle made up of influential New Yorkers, like famous Broadway star Vera Charles, played by Desirée Roots Centeio, and publisher Lindsay Woolsey, played by Thomas Nowlin. Mame’s party lifestyle is suddenly interrupted when she takes over care of her late brother’s young son Patrick, played by Brandon McKinney.
Mame decides to give Patrick an alternative education, teaching how to make martinis for her guests, encouraging him to write down words he overhears but doesn’t understand (even the dirty ones) and enrolling him in her friend’s progressive school.
When Mame loses her fortune to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, she is forced to take on odd jobs to earn money, most of which she is dreadful at and quickly fired. However, during her brief run as a manicurist, Mame meets and falls in love with Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, or Beau played by Jody Ashworth, who is a very rich man and they marry.
With Mame’s financial troubles seemingly solved, she embarks on an extended honeymoon. When she returns, she finds out Patrick has become engaged to an awful snobbish girl, Gloria played by Catherine Walker, and she sets out to break up their romance.
Broadway darling Emily Skinner is magnificent in the title role. For me, she is reminiscent of Julie Andrews and brings amazing style and grace to her role. Her voice has beautiful clarity and her excellent diction adds to her command of the stage. Her portrayal of Mame is charming and she exudes a level of coolness that makes men attracted to her and women want to be her.
Brandon McKinney gives a strong performance as the young Patrick, he is confident in his role and has great facial expressions. Especially when he is comforting Mame or glaring disapprovingly, out of jealousy, at her new love, Beau.
Jody Ashworth is fantastic as southern gentlemen, Beau. I am always greatly impressed by Ashworth and the range of characters he is able to portray. On that note, I feel very similarly about Audra Honaker, who plays Patrick’s caretaker, Agnes.
I have seen her play an extremely wide range of characters here in Richmond and I feel Honaker pours her soul into every part she takes on. She is hilarious as Agnes, who is a bit, albeit unintentionally, corrupted by Mame’s wild ideals.
Desirée Roots Centeio is a powerhouse as Vera. She commands every scene she’s in and has a beyond gorgeous voice. She plays the part of Mame’s sometimes bosom buddy and sometimes “frenemy” amazingly. Centeio has perfect comedic timing and strong chemistry with Skinner.
The timeline of the musical spans an 18 year period with Alexander Sapp playing the grown-up Patrick. While Sapp’s performance is good, I have definitely seen him play stronger roles. And I feel that there may have been struggles for Sapp with this part as grown-up Patrick comes off as a little petulant and whiny in the script.
I absolutely love Jerry Herman’s music, the songs have been stuck in my head since seeing the show’s matinee performance on Sunday. They are just so catchy and fun. The choreography by Patti D’Beck is extremely high energy, and compliments the music well.
Ron Keller’s set is excellent. I was particularly impressed by the set of Beau’s plantation in Georgia.
Sue Griffin’s costumes are gorgeous as usual. Her construction is on point and every character was dressed appropriately for their role.
My only issues with the technical aspects of this show are firstly the “Mame” sign shown at the start of the show. The foil that was used on the sign is very wrinkled and the musical introduction to the show is quite long; meaning there is more time to stare and pick apart the imperfections in the sign.
There is also a noticeable lack of any aging make-up in the main characters, maybe a little gray hair on Vera and Lindsay, but none that I could see on Mame herself. And the lack of this detail does take you out of the experience a bit as you know 18 years has passed.
Overall “Mame” is a fun and light-hearted show. The whole production in a visual feast and when viewed in the context of the time period it was written, it is very charming.
“Mame” is showing at the November Theatre at VA Rep through January 11th.
Visit www.va-rep.org for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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