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Monday, November 18, 2019

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Loretta Swit sparkles in ‘Mame'

By Bill Moloney - reviewer

By:
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Contributed
The Forestburgh Playhouse's production of “Mame,” starring Loretta Swit, pictured, opened July 1 and will run through July 13. Directed and choreographed by Dann Dunn, the show times are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. For tickets and info call 794-1194 or visit FBplayhouse.org.
The title role of the madcap, champagne toasting “Mame” has been played through the years by strong leading ladies such as Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell and even Lucille Ball in the 1974 film. It's a role that demands a fierce energy.
The Forestburgh Playhouse hits a home run in casting the irrepressible Loretta Swit as the Depression Era New York City socialite who is granted custody of her young nephew and must now contend with his upbringing. And when I say a fierce energy, I mean it.
The role has her handling at least ten songs, several dance numbers, a large cast and a staircase that she ascends and descends often in a plethora of different costumes. I have no idea how this woman got in and out of so many costumes in such short spans of time and still danced, pranced and twirled around the stage.
Her enthusiasm and oomph never waned. And yet, she slowed it down just long enough to touch our hearts with a beautiful rendition of “If He Walked into My Life.”
The show's timeline of 1928 to 1946 takes us from Mame's extravagant cocktail parties to losing everything during the Depression. As her luck would have it, a new rich husband puts her back on top; all the while trying to raise her young nephew into a “live life to the fullest” young man.
Along the way, she interacts with an array of characters who give solid performances. Carolann Page as Mame's gin swilling actress best friend Vera provides plenty of laughs and a big voice especially in her duet with Mame in “Bosom Buddies”. Another source of comedy was the talented Kym Chambers Otto as the nanny Agnes Gooch. One true standout was also the youngest. Ryan Fogler as the young nephew Patrick who is dropped in on Auntie Mame's life had some really nice duets with Ms. Swit in particular “My Best Girl” which reprised a few times during the show and was superb each time. He had a definite presence whenever he was on stage and his lines, including comic ones, were delivered perfectly.
The ensemble of this production kept the show snappy with the help of Dann Dunn's snazzy choreography. Dance numbers like “The Fox Hunt” and most notably the Act One finale “Mame” were creatively constructed and very well rehearsed. Whether it was crowded cocktail parties, street scenes, fox hunts or western get togethers this gifted ensemble created colorful landscapes of constantly moving images.
A huge part of their visual success is thanks to Costume Designer Ashleigh Poteat. Detailing 30 actors with sometimes several changes is an achievement that did not go unnoticed. This Designer's use of vibrant color and period costuming brought us hook, line and sinker back into a forgotten time in American history. Kudos to this hard working Costumer.
Scenic Designer Bradley Wehrle offered us an assortment of visual settings to keep the audience gawking. His central staircase was pivotal and worked well in every scene.
My only concern throughout this full length musical was the time between some of the scene changes. It is definitely a scenery/costume changing heavy show and knowing this should alert every Director to insure smooth, seamless transitions that don't keep the audience in the dark for too long. Having cool sets is a plus, but not moving quickly and effortlessly into the next cool set can be a minus.
The Forestburgh Playhouse's “Mame” is an ambitious project that pays off high dividends thanks to a hard working ensemble that is led by a wonderful star!





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