Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester – until 9 November 2019
This was my first visit to Hope Mill and hopefully not the last – but what a stunning visit it was seeing this outstanding performance of Mame. It might be a tiny little theatre, but they think and act big. What is actually a very small production felt like a huge Broadway spectacular, with the onstage band of six (Alex Parker, Tom Evans, Mark Harrison, Rachel Allen, Inés Mota, Marcus Vinícius de Oliveira Figueiredo Da Silva and Michael Clarke) sounding like a full orchestra.
Tracie Bennett shines as the eccentric, larger than life, freewheeling bohemian suddenly left looking after her dead brother’s son Patrick. Auntie Mame rises magnificently to the occasion – giving Patrick an education in life. Teaching over the years that life is a banquet and one must enjoy every minute and “Live, Live, Live”. Along the way, she suffers financial losses, attempts and fails at a variety of jobs and ultimately rises above it all when she finds her own romance with a courtly southern plantation owner, Beauregard (Tim Flavin).
Bennett shows us a masterclass of comedic and dramatic acting with power-house vocals to match her acting. This vivid depiction of a flamboyant character is reinforced in all of Mame’s relationships, but nowhere more comically and effectively than in the scenes between Mame and arch rival/best friend Vera Charles (Harriet Thorpe). Thorpe’s waspish delivery of the one liners and banter between Vera and Mame is just priceless and hysterical. One of the best moments of the musical is when the two women – one clad in white, the other in slinky black, explain their love/hate relationship in the song ‘Bosom Buddies’.
Lochlan White nearly steals the show as the young Patrick Dennis, arriving with his solid, stolid nanny Agnes Gooch (Jessie May). With a great voice and poise beyond his years, he nails the role. Frumpy Gooch, moving from naivety through experience, via Mame’s encouragement and makeover, is hilarious. Chase Brown shines as the older Patrick. Other standouts in the cast are Sally Cato, portrayed by Pippa Winslow, with a strong voice, and oozing jealousy toward Mame. Mother Burnside portrayed with great comic flair by Soo Druet, and Ito portrayed with superb comic timing and tenderness, by Benjamin Wong.
Nick Winston directs and choreographs this fantastic show, full of magical musical numbers by Jerry Herman. The show-stopping musical number Mame, expertly choreographed was breathtaking in its creation, and flawless in its execution by this tremendous chorus. Producers Katy Lipson from Aria Productions and Joseph Houston and William Whelton consistently present amazing productions, with each one that little bit better than the one before, so I can not wait to see how their next show can possibly top Mame – because this is possibly the best show I have seen in my whole theatre-going career.
Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to this show in this beautiful gem of theatre – well worth a trip to Manchester