Music & Lyrics by: Jerry Herman
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Originally titled My Best Girl, the musical Mame is based upon a 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis called Auntie Mame. Set in New York, the musical takes place during the Great Depression and spans onward through to World War II. The original 1966 Broadway musical production of Mame starred Angela Lansbury in the title role, Frankie Michaels as young Patrick Dennis, Jerry Lanning as older Patrick Dennis, Jane Connell as Agnes Gooch and Bea Arthur as Vera Charles. The musical was extremely successful, nominated for several Tony Awards and winning for Best Actress, Best Featured Actor and Best Featured Actress. Masterworks Broadway has recently re-released the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Mame, now available in a new eco-friendly packaging.
The story of Mame is a comedy of ups and downs in the life of a non-conformist socialite. In the height of Prohibition, Mame is the life of the party, drinking and dancing to her heart’s content, when she is suddenly thrust into motherhood. Her brother and his wife have died and their will leaves their only son Patrick, along with their nanny, Agnes Gooch, in Mame’s care.
Agnes and Dwight Babcock, representative of the bank in which Patrick’s trust fund is set up, disagree on the boy’s education. Mame wishes to bring him up in her non-conformist lifestyle while the bank wants to honor the wishes of the father for a conservative education. In the end, the bank wins out, but Mame is determined to show Patrick that life can be boring without a little non-conformity.
Despite losing all of her money in the stock market crash, her husband to an accident in the Alps and her little boy to natural growth, Mame soldiers on, never taking the easy way out and always finding a new and innovative way to approach life. Her quirkiness is shared by her friends and those entrusted to her and Mame finds herself loved by all who know her, despite the scorn she receives from the uppercrust of society.
The music of Mame is quite enjoyable with catchy tunes that are appealing and easily remembered. After listening to the album once, I found myself singing along the second time around. There are so many upbeat songs in this production and I loved every single one. Open A New Window talks of trying new things and being a non-conformist in an effort to spice up one’s life. That’s How Young I Feel is self explanatory. There are funny songs as well, like The Man in the Moon in which Bea Arthur’s character reveals that the man on the moon is actually a woman.
My favorite songs on the album are Mame and Bosom Buddies. Mame sings the praises of the lead character and in the eyes of the men singing this tune, Mame can do no wrong: “You coax the blues right out of the horn, Mame / You charm the husk right off of the corn, Mame / You've got that banjoes strumming’ / And plunkin' out a tune to beat the band / The whole plantation's hummin' / Since you brought Dixie back to Dixie land…” In my other favorite, Bosom Buddies, Angela Lansbury (Mame) and Bea Arthur (Vera) describe the reasons that they will always be friends: “If I say that your sense of style's as far as off as your youth / It's simply that who else but a bosom buddy / Will tell you the whole stinkin' truth…” The song is hilarious and yet, truthful, as I always insist on honesty from my best friends and offer my opinions in the same vein.
Angela Lansbury’s voice is not miraculous, but it is enjoyable. Bea Arthur’s singing was never great in my opinion, but the two do harmonize very nicely. The rest of the singing on the album is performed rather well and the music is equally enjoyable.
This version of Mame contains bonus tracks of the musical’s songs performed for an audition tape featuring Jerry Herman at the piano singing along with Alice Borden. I found it interesting to hear these songs performed in a different style and voice. It actually served to make me appreciate what went into the more aggrandized versions of the songs performed at the Broadway musical level.The re-released Original Broadway Cast Recording of Mame is an incredibly enjoyable soundtrack that I have found myself listening to over and over again. It’s just so much fun that I can’t help but replay my favorite parts, singing along with the stars of the musical and dancing…yes, dancing…around the house along with the music. This album is a must for any Broadway musical aficionado.