Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Mame Day!

Last night, at the 55th Drama Desk Awards, Angela Lansbury presented composer/lyricist Jerry Herman with a Drama Desk special award to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater, specifically for "enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exuberant music and heartfelt lyrics for more than half a century". 

On this day, in 1966, his musical MAME opened at the Winter Garden Theatre where it ran until October, 1969.  It transferred to the Broadway Theatre where it ran another six months until January, 1970.   It played a total of 1,513 performances.   It garnered five Tony Awards, including Best Actress for Angela Lansbury, Best Supporting Actress for Bea Arthur, Best Musical, Best Composer and Lyricist for Jerry Herman, and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Frankie Michaels.

During the run, Celeste Holm, Ann Miller, Jane Morgan, Janis Paige and Sheila Smith all had a go at playing Mame.   Angela Lansbury herself took it on the road, including a long sit down in Los Angeles. 

MAME has had one revival.  In 1983, an attempt was made to revive it, again with Angela Lansbury.  She was 17 years older and although as fabulous as ever, perhaps couldn't kick quite so high.  For whatever reason, the stars didn't align again and it only ran for a disappointing 48 performances. 

In 2006, the Kennedy Center produced a production of MAME starring Christine Baranski as Mame and Harriet Harris as Vera Charles.   I loved it and hoped it would transfer, although it was not to be.   

However, I've been hoping for a revival ever since.  I know its imperative for a revival to be at least as good as its original, if not better at least completely different.  And for a role of this stature it has to be somebody who transcends the ordinary leading lady.   After seeing Donna Murphy in the Encores! production of Anyone Can Whistle at City Center earlier this year,  I've launched a grass roots campaign to see her star as Mame in a revival.

Last year, Jerry Herman was also honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.  Given the fact that his La Cage Aux Folles is a hit on Broadway, it's time the current generation to get a taste of his other shows (his Hello Dolly! was the first big "Broadway" show I saw on tour circia 1995 and its original star, Carol Channing was still touring in it).  If there ever was a time to do it, the time is now - Jerry Herman deserves a renaissance.

No comments: