Friday, June 02, 2006
Mame Slightly Bruised, Not Maimed, by Critics
It’s been 40 years and nine days since Jerry Herman’s Mame made its first bow on Broadway. Now comes the first major revival since 1983 to engage spirited speculation over a return to the Great White Way via Washington DC’s Kennedy Center. With Christine Baranski assuming the title role, critics seemed favorably disposed on the whole, but took issue directly with the star of the show by suggesting her portrayal was a bit too tepid.
Sounding one of those sour notes on the production that opened last night, The New York Times’ Ben Brantley proclaimed “…if you were looking for a likely candidate to resurrect this shiny dinosaur, Ms. Baranski, a Tony- and Emmy-winning actress of glittering eccentricity and drop-dead timing, would seem to be an excellent place to start. Yet from the moment she comes into view at the top of that staircase, blowing a bugle and dressed to thrill, she seems reluctant to grab the mantle once worn by stars like Ms. (Angela) Lansbury and Carol Channing and Ethel Merman.”
The Washington Post’ s Peter Marks concurred on Baranski noting “She's in the ballpark vocally, but she does not yet make Mame totally her own.” The Associated Press’ Michael Kuchwara offered his diagnosis of Baranski: ”So the actress is working against type. It takes a while to warm up to her. And her Mame has a grand, self-conscious accent -- one that fortunately disappears when she sings, which the actress does with surprising strength.”
Certainly, Baranski is an exceptionally talented actress, singer and dancer, as each of the critics aptly noted. So perhaps it’ll just be a matter of time and “coaxing the blues out” of Baranski’s Mame to make this an unequivocally satisfying production and worthy Broadway contender. I’ll be providing my personal SOB Review of Mame once I see it two weeks from tomorrow.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.
Assassins Loose in Washington for Another Week (May 31, 2006)
Mame with Christine Baranski Begins Saturday at Kennedy Center (May 26, 2006)