'Mame' reveals winning quality right from start

A show that opens with award-winning potential is a rarity, but 2nd Star Productions' Mame seemed a winner at its debut last weekend at Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park.

In 1957, a script by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee brought Patrick Dennis' autobiographical novel to theater with a memorable score by Jerry Herman. They tell the story of orphaned, 10-year-old Patrick, who goes to live with his aunt after the death of his father. Auntie Mame holds parties awash in bathtub gin, savoring the Roaring Twenties in her Manhattan apartment.


Contributing their talents to 2nd Star's production are director and producer Jane B. Wingard, choreographer Vicki Smith and musical director Donald K. Smith, along with set designer Lynne E. Wilson, costume assistants Linda Swann and Suzi Reams, and lighting and sound designer Garrett R. Hyde.

During last weekend's performance, the orchestra wrestled with some pesky problems. Presumably, Smith will have his musicians note-perfect by this weekend.


Stage presence

One essential to any production of Mame is a charismatic, talented star to play the title character.

In Nori Morton, 2nd Star has a dazzling, lovable, madcap Mame who easily persuades the audience that life is a banquet. Morton's presence commands the stage from the first scene, when - perched atop a piano in her Manhattan apartment - she sings a heartfelt "If He Walked Into My Life" and a brassy "Bosom Buddies," handling every nuance of the score while pulling the audience deeper under her spell.

Holding her own in the "Bosom Buddies" duet and in other scenes, Andrea Elward plays the hard-drinking famous actress Vera Charles, providing sharp wit and lots of laughs laced with sardonic spice.

Adorable Andrew Gordon is perfect as Young Patrick, whether he is mixing a martini, singing "You're My Best Girl" to Auntie Mame or appearing confused in the adult worlds he inhabits.

Jan Kleckner plays mousy governess-turned-secretary Agnes Gooch, who Mame talks into partaking in life's pleasures. Kleckner brings the squinting, myopic Gooch to subtle comic life in a somewhat restrained performance that turns riotous in later scenes.

Skilled actor Walt League is memorable in the brief role of the love of Mame's life, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside.

Small roles, big actors


Even minor roles are filled by major players - Mame's Japanese houseboy Ito is played to hilarious perfection by Gary Seddon, recently seen as Felix in 2nd Star's Odd Couple. Rebekka Meyer dances beautifully and is convincing as phony, finishing school debutante Gloria Upson, Patrick's fiancee. Older Patrick is played by Jud Wegner, who moves from stuffy to lovable and can sing quite well.

The ensemble "Fox Hunt" number can hardly be improved, and when the cast gathers again for the title song to sing Mame's praises, they create theater magic.

Mame continues on weekends through June 26. For information, call 410-757-5700 or check the Web site at