Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Directed and choreographed by William Koch
Musical direction by Nancy Evers
St. Bart's Players
Park Avenue and 50th St. (212/378-0222)
Non-union production (closes Apr. 12)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Jerry Herman's Mame helped the St. Bart's Playhouse celebrate their 75th diamond jubilee season with a glorious production of the 1966 Broadway show. With or without the anticipation of seeing Cher on ABC in the title role in the near future, this timeless classic stood on its own with splashy production numbers, fun music, and a striking diva in the title role.

Mame, a well-to-do New Yorker who lives for the moment in the height of the 1920s, is surprised by a wonderful new present -- her 10-year-old orphaned nephew Patrick (Eddie Paillet). Enamored with her new family member, she shows him the world through her eyes, much to the dismay of the legal authorities, who insist on his "proper" upbringing. With the help of the more colorful characters in her life (her servants, her lovers, and her actress/alcoholic/best friend), Patrick grows up with more love, care, and firsthand life experience than anyone else on his block.

Jill Conklin may very well have been the hardest-working actress on Park Avenue at the moment. She played the demanding role of Auntie Mame jumping from one fashionable get-up to the next and managed to maintain more glamour in her pinky than Julia Roberts.

Tammy Williams (Vera Charles) played Mame's best friend, an actress who lives a life of debauchery. When Mame loses all of her money during the stock-market crash, Vera gives her a role in her new production (The Moon Song), with disastrous and hilarious results.

David Pasteelnick played older Patrick Dennis with the touching charm of a 1930s leading man. His version of My Best Girl was one of the highlights of the show.

Clearly one of the best performances by a minor lead in the show was "Gooch's Song," sung by the talented Hope Landry. Her voice was a hidden surprise until the second act, thanks to the clever musical direction of Nancy Evers.

William Koch's direction and choreography were true to the period and thrilling to watch, especially in the flamboyant production numbers. Making excellent use of Charlie Calvert's luxurious set design, Koch made several of the scene changes a part of the characters' actions, which did not take away from the illusion one bit. Koch made great use of the small stage.

Katherine Beitner played a delightfully irritating Gloria Upson, while bearing an arresting resemblance to Monica Lewinsky.

Lighting design, by Elizabeth Gaines, and costumes by James E. Crochet, were exquisite.

The show also featured Daniel Burke, Victor Van Etten, Jonathan Salkin, Veronica Shea, Susan Neuffer, Bonnie Berens, Tom Masters, Marylin Bettis, Ulises Giberga, Rich Fisher, Brian Haggerty, Vivienne LaBarbara, Patrick Healy, Rob Rile, Wendy Valdez, Lesley Berry, Jean Frances, Vikki Willoughby, and Tina Throckmorton.

Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's book has gone down in history to some as one of the best feel-good stories of the 20th century. With memorable music, energetic choreography, and a compelling book it is a safe bet that this musical will long be remembered as the height of perfection in its genre.

Box Score:

Book/lyrics/music: 2
Directing/musical direction: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada