AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music & lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee
Directed by Bill Starr
Presented by Hillbarn Theatre
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA / (650) 349-6411

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Thanks in large part to Annmarie Martin's star turn in the title role of "Mame", Hillbarn Theatre has a hit on its hands.

Martin plays Mame Dennis, a free spirited New Yorker who finds herself taking care of her young nephew, Patrick Dennis (the poised Nicholas Garland), after her brother's death. Even though Mame has a decidedly different approach to parenting, she and Patrick develop a close bond and share some great adventures. Her primary adversary is Dwight Babcock (Jesse Caldwell), the attorney appointed to oversee Patrick's welfare.

This 1966 musical is based on a play, "Auntie Mame," by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, who wrote the book for the musical and who based their play on a novel of the same name, in which author Patrick Dennis recounts his life with his Bohemian aunt.

Jerry Herman's music and lyrics for "Mame" includes such well known songs as "Open a New Window," "We Need a Little Christmas," "Bosom Buddies," "If He Walked Into My Life," and of course the title song. Martin, a terrific singer, is featured in all of them except "Mame," when she holds the stage with her charismatic presence.

The story takes place in Mame's apartment in New York City starting in 1928 and continues through various settings until 1946, when Patrick is now a young adult played by Matt Waters. By then he has become engaged to an airhead, Gloria Upson (Katherine Goldman), but Mame cleverly devises a way to scuttle that relationship.

Besides Patrick, the main people in Mame's life are Vera Charles (Jenifer Tice), her best friend; and Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Daniel Kapler), the wealthy Southerner who falls in love with her, marries her and takes her on a two-year round-the-world honeymoon. Also important is Agnes Gooch (Jayne Amini), Patrick's repressed nanny.

Mae Matos's costume designs are terrific for everyone, but she has created one stunning outfit after another for Martin.

Directed by Bill Starr with choreography by Gary Stanford Jr. (who's also in the ensemble) and musical direction by Greg Sudmeier, the large cast is quite good.

The set by Kuo-Hao Lo accommodates the many scene changes, but movement of the curtain and set pieces is sometimes clunky. Don Coluzzi's lighting works well for the most part except for the "Bosom Buddies" duet by Mame and Vera, when Vera's follow spot seems weak. The sound is by Alan Chang.

Overall, though, this is a well done show, one that benefits enormously from Martin's polished performance.

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