Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wick Theatre: Mame (reviews)

mame-posterThe Wick Theatre opened their production of Mame on December 4th, 2014.
Broadway and film star Leslie Uggams stars in the classic musical based on the novel “Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis. It tells the ageless story of Mame Dennis’ eccentric, bohemian lifestyle suddenly interrupted when her late brother’s son is entrusted to her care. But rather than adopt to any societal standards about child rearing, money-making and romance – Mame does everything with her own dramatic flair. Many of Jerry Herman’s most memorable melodies grace this production including Mame, It’s Today, If He Walked Into My Life and We Need A Little Christmas.
Norb Joerder directed a cast that featured Leslie Uggams, Lourelene Snedeker, Jim Ballard, and Irene Adjan.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Whenever Leslie Uggams opens her mouth and lets loose that glorious voice, whenever the live band swings into one of Jerry Herman’s standards, whenever the dance ensemble starts hoofing, the Wick Theatre’s production of Mame is an irresistible pleasure producing uninhibited smiles in the audience.
But when the music stops, so does the show. The non-musical scenes – and some of the musical ones – just lie there on the stage limp and colorless.
The easy person to blame for the sluggish shortcomings is director-choreographer-stager Norb Joerder, but he did a superb job on last season’s 42nd Street and a decent job with Steel Magnolias at the Wick. Here, he clearly has not delivered the witty topspin and joie de vivre that define the soul of the show.
…Ms. Uggams exudes a wonderful warmth, but she never puts across that blithe devil-take-the-hindmost spirit that Mame absolutely must radiate. This show needs a sparkplug, especially in the book scenes…
Technically, everything is just adequate other than the costumes designed by Kimberly Wick, which obviously are first-rate. But, for instance, the set design by Eric Harriz is just barely passable; the main set doesn’t even have the essential winding staircase for the big entrances and the finale. There’s a new upgraded sound system, but the crew was still trying to adjust sound levels and timing on opening night. One actor was not heard clearly all night.
On the other hand, any chance to hear Leslie Uggams caress the Jerry Herman score may be well worth a ticket to many patrons.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
First the good news about Mame, now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton: The show's star, Leslie Uggams, still possesses a hot honey of a voice.  And the cast around her work hard, high-kicking and belting with everything they've got. The eight-piece band, under the direction of Michael Ursua, sounds big and bright.
The bad news is that it only makes Mame shine periodically. The show just doesn't seem able to sustain its pep for longer than the length of any of composer Jerry Herman's catchy tunes. Part of the problem, it must be said, is that many of Mame's jokes seem dusty and dated. Much of the humor falls flat and the sight gags range from merely cute to … (insert sigh here) … how-quaint.
But… we also have to put the blame on Mame. While Uggams' star wattage has not dimmed one iota over the years, and she clearly relishes performing the role, she is miscast. She never really dances as much as makes mincing steps across the stage in her sparkly flat shoes. Often she arrives in a scene and sits down as soon as possible, even being wheeled in and off a few times on rolling set pieces…
If you can ignore all the in-between parts and simply want to hear glorious versions of the show's hits such as "Bosom Buddies," "Open A New Window," "We Need A Little Christmas," "If He Walked Into My Life" and the title song, then "Mame" is a must-not-miss.
Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Uggams remains a terrific vocalist, well showcased by the character’s 11 o’clock power ballad, “If He Walked into My Life.” When she is singing, it is hard to be anti-Mame. On the other hand, her acting is pretty perfunctory and, at 71, she does not move comfortably onstage (probably due to a rehearsal mishap that got her hobbling). Fortunately, the show was always designed to give the dance chores to the chorus, which high-steps energetically around Uggams, handling the heavy lifting (literally).
Lending solid support to Uggams is a handful of area performers that has appeared previously at The Wick. They include a Southified Jim Ballard as Mame’s beau Beauregard, Lourelene Snedeker as her tipsy theatrical sidekick Vera and a more subdued than usual Missy McArdle in a trio of supporting roles. Making a welcome Wick debut is an amusing Irene Adjan as secretary Agnes Gooch and tiny Ryan Sell is certifiably adorable as the younger Patrick.
In The Wick’s short history, it will not be remembered as its finest hour but, as the song puts it, if you “Need a Little Christmas,” Mame should fill the bill.
The Wick Theatre presents  their production of Mame starring Leslie Uggams through December 28, 2014

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