Another smash hit on Broadway…
It opened last Wednesday night, complete with bravery and applause.
“We’re proud to take the ‘brave’ in ‘Brave Community Theatre’ and bring it to the stage this year with a new play format,” announced Brave Community Theatre (BCT) actor Craig Cornell, introducing the “reader theater” format that the cast of BCT’s Ag Days production of “Mame” brought to the stage at the Spring Valley Community Center on Spring Valley’s Broadway last week.
“You’ll notice that the actors and actresses are carrying black script books with them throughout the show — it’s a new way of making theater happen in a short time — but you’ll soon forget that they’re carrying them,” said Cornell. “We hope you enjoy the show.”
According to the notes of director Laurie Helmers, “Mame,” the story of a grand dame of Broadway, Mame Dennis, who doesn’t have a child but suddenly inherits her nephew, Patrick, and shows him how to “live, live, live” an unconventional but fulfilling life, starts with a novel by Patrick Dennis, which was turned into a play called “Auntie Mame” in 1954. The musical adaptation “Mame” premiered at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre on May 24, 1966.
The music, written by Jerry Herman, patterned itself after Herman’s highly successful show, “Hello, Dolly!” Producers wanted the reigning queen of Broadway, Mary Martin, to play the lead, but she turned it down. After rejecting 40 other actresses, Angela Lansbury was given the role. It turned her into the reigning queen of Broadway. In 1974, Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon, releasing a movie version starring Lucille Ball in the role.
Helmers related that she was also “thrilled to be a part of the ‘brave’ in Brave Community Theatre by directing a new form called ‘reader’s theater,’ or ‘concert version,’ partnering with Andrew Lovejoy and the talented members of his orchestra.”
The orchestra featured conductor Lovejoy and the talents of first violinist Rebecca Lawson, second violinist Karen Grandall, violist Wesley Saxena — who, incidentally, hails all the way from Connecticut — second trumpet player Joy Inglett, first trumpet player Warren Bandel, trombonist Chuck Whitcomb, alto and soprano saxophonist Dwight Jennings, flutist and piccolo player Teresa Cerling, keyboardist Suz Eberle, bassist Roy Cerling and percussionist Todd Gabriel, and provided accompaniment for the well-known show tunes, such as “We Need a Little Christmas” and “It’s Today,” as well as offering transitions between scenes, as the BCT community center stage is small and has no wings in which cast members can travel to change scenes.
Helmers proved that she could now cross “Mame” off her bucket list, taking on the role of “Mame” and leading the cast of actors and actresses from at least five different towns, including Spring Valley, Rochester, Stewartville, Racine and Ostrander.
BCT veteran Sarah Kohn was the acerbic “Vera Charles,” Mame’s best friend, Novella Meisner was Patrick’s desperate but comic nanny, Agnes Gooch, who found herself “living” a little bit beyond her own expectations as a pregnant “bachelor girl” who later finds out that she’s not indeed a “bachelor girl,” but someone who, while inebriated, was married to Homer Hickock, “also called ‘Tex’ because I’m from Oklahoma,” written into the script by the director and played by Myatt Helmers. William Jahn was young Patrick, who deftly handed off his role to Nathan Lange as the mature Patrick, who was so very in love with Gloria Upson, a screeching, perfectly clueless girl “with the intelligence of a dead flashlight battery,” brought to the stage by Isabella Loutfi.
Cornell and fellow BCT veterans Corey Marzolf, Linda Niemeyer and Marcy Capelle, Bob Capelle, narrator Elliott Grandall, Bruce Adams, Patricia Barrier, John Helmers, Kristie Kinneberg, Brandon Lange, Julie Mlinar, Randy Peterson, Treyton Pokorney, Mary Ann Schultz and chorus members Shelly Cornell and Stephanie Osterhus kept the story in unconventional action, from sharing the words young Patrick wasn’t supposed to learn to providing a hilarious play-by-play of the horse race Mame finds herself in while riding sidesaddle in the South.
Audiences shared that they thought it’s nice to have the orchestra and live music to go with the show throughout its four-night run, and BCT extended its appreciation to Making Waves Salon of Stewartville, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the Kingsland Drama Club and Valley Christian Center in Spring Valley, Quality Overhead Door and Rochester Civic Theatre in Rochester, and to everyone who volunteered their time or came to the shows.
“It’s been a crazy roller-coaster ride putting it all together for these performances, but I don’t regret taking Mame’s advice to ‘live, live, live,’” Helmers concluded in her notes.