My production Mame, recently staged at the Epsom Playhouse, received some wonderful personal reviews:
“What a fantastic production last night. Amazing music, singing, dancing and casting – a feast for the eyes and ears, in fact, quite a banquet!”
“What a superb show, I loved it! There just wasn’t a weakness in the whole thing, a truley impressive and thoroughly entertaining evening.”
“WOW, absolutely wow, we couldn’t clap loudly enough. Can’t wait to see your next show in April.”
NODA Review – By Jon Fox
Reviewed on Wednesday 19th October 2016
This sparkling, energetic and touching musical began life on Broadway in May 1966 and ran for over fifteen hundred performances winning several Tony awards for the leading players. Its genus was however from the 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis and the 1956 Broadway comedy “Auntie Mame” and 1958 film of the same name. Because of the necessary cost of fabulous costumes, big sets and large orchestral sound, it is rarely staged now by amateur companies, more’s the pity.
Director James Fortune’s spirited production had all the necessary ingredients: talented players in great depth, magnificent staging and stage sets, sumptuous costumes, fabulous dancing and choreography backed by a vibrant and brassy band. The show had energy enough to satisfy the Duracell Bunny! It had pace, emotion, pathos and some memorable songs, not least the title song “Mame”. However, for my taste one of the most heartfelt and moving songs ever written for the musical stage is “If He walked into my Life” sung hauntingly by the indefatigable and richly talented Lisa Scott as Mame. It would be incorrect to say Lisa carried this show, as so many others were also top notch but without a stunningly charismatic lead like Lisa this show could not possibly succeed.
Set in brash and bustling New York shortly before the 1929 Wall Street Crash, this production featured over fifty people hurrying to keep up with the Big Apple’s busy schedule. There was even a Lithuanian Bishop! Crossing the stage busily in both directions all New York City life was represented. Young Patrick played with a rare confidence by eleven year old Freddie Wilson (one to watch!) and his nanny, Agnes Gooch, the richly gifted Caron Ireland, opened the show by looking for his Auntie Mame’s address. Both were somewhat perplexed by the goings on around them. Freddie later played his own son Peter Dennis at the end of the production! In theatre anything is possible.
Patrick was duly taken into his Aunt’s care and was quickly introduced to her unconventional life style. Talk about the University of life! Agnes was employed by the lavish spending Mame as she began her battle to educate Patrick in her way, and not in the conventional way that his trustee Dwight Babcock – beautifully played by Andy Robson -tried to instill. The chemistry throughout between young Patrick and Mame was highly realistic and real warmth was evident between them both.
As the story unfolded we met more fascinating characters; Mame’s friend, confidante, and egotistical lead actress Vera Charles, played with superb presence and class by Charlie Hoddell; Dilip Patel was Mame’s faithful servant Ito, a warm hearted character, skilfully played and integral to the plot; Lindsay Woolsey, a publisher, was given much veracity and style by Stephen Chalkley; Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, was Mame’s financial saviour and subsequent husband – doomed to an untimely death in the Alps – the paragon Chris Evans as Beauregard emanated charm, likeability and professional class. Beau’s southern relatives were all wonderfully played with “awful people” hideousness by the following – Monica Turnbull as Mother Burnside (also a delightful Madame Branislowski) and her equally appalling family, beautifully played in snooty, arrogant style by Paul Hyde and Sandra Zeffman as Mr and Mrs Upson, his parents, and the horsey, spiteful ex-fiancee Sally Cato, trying but failing to humiliate Mame. Rebecca Cenamor as Sally was deliciously nasty, getting every ounce from this unpleasant character.
Rick Qureshi as the strong willed and charismatic adult Patrick, was introduced by the top magician director James Fortune in a stunning stage deception trick which completely fooled the audience (and this reviewer). Patrick, now at university and free from Mame’s guiding hand was introduced by a now mature Junior Babcock, nicely portrayed by Russell Thompson to the ghastly Gloria Upson – a peach of a performance by Jenevieve Phillipson . Her own snobby relatives played in egotistical and overbearing style, caused the rift between Mame and Patrick. This was only healed when Mame got her own back by returning the invitation for them all to come to New York City , where her deliberate marriage saboteur tactics succeeded in opening Patrick’s eyes to their ghastliness. His affections then turned thankfully to the lovely Pegeen Ryan, Mame’s decorator, played with warmth and sympathy by Emily Evans. The horrible Upson clan included the redoubtable Alex Land as the awful Uncle Jeff and an equally skilfully played Cousin Fan, given snobby life by Rachel Yelland.
The dancers and chorus were too numerous to mention personally, but every person on stage played their roles with credit and this was a very special performance by the whole company. There was much top quality singing, well controlled by the very experienced director Francis Griffin. His eight piece band was of superb quality and was a major plus point. I must credit the magnificent and often intricate choreography under the sure eye of Charlotte Thompson. This richly talented young lady is a regular on stage with ELOC, who would be crazy not to engage her again – and soon – as company choreographer. Her magnificent dancers with their splendid feather costumes brought deserved “Aahs” from a rightfully impressed audience.
I loved the crescent moon show scene where Mame upstaged and fell out with Vera. The fox hunt scene was also noteworthy, with yet more superb costumes, as was the richly comedic Agnes as a swinger and the hilarious bloody fingers manicure scenes. (Beau was the “victim”). In fact, costumes generally were the best I have seen in the amateur theatre since …… well I can’t remember when! Elizabeth Callow, Sally Dallosso, Monica Mickels, Costume Workshop, Triple C and finally WAOS supplied and co-ordinated by Elizabeth. Awe inspiring!
The Finales to both acts also impressed fully. Lighting and sound were very surely handled too, but the overall palm must go to marvellous show director James Fortune. He achieved a successfully balanced show with a host of believable characters, all well cast who provided a rich mix of all human emotions, carefully chosen to tug at and fully engage the heartstrings.
The production was by any standards a huge success leaving a privileged audience in wonder at the talent bestriding the stage. ELOC, please take a richly earned final bow!
A final praise for the comprehensive programme, with clear cast pictures and with a full page given over to NODA.
NODA District 19