Leslie Uggams Makes Us Feel Alive Again in “Mame”
By Skip Sheffield
Our family has admired Leslie Uggams since she was a child star on “Sing Along With Mitch.”
Leslie Uggams is fully grown and then some as the larger-than-life Manhattan socialite “Mame,” playing through Dec. 28 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
The role of “Auntie” Mame Dennis is one of the best female characters in American musical history. Many illustrious actresses have played Mame, starting with Rosalind Russell in the original 1956 Broadway production.
Here in Boca Raton the most memorable Mame for me was our own Jan McArt, who embodies the outgoing, showy, joyful character both on and offstage.
I do not know Leslie Uggams personally, but she is an undeniably beautiful woman with a lovely voice. I think she handles the role of Mame Dennis well, but there are a few strange things about this production, directed by the ever-reliable Norb Joerder.
While she looks much younger than her real age of 71, Ms. Uggams is noticeably older than her stage love interest, Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, an aristocratic, cornpone Southern plantation owner played by Jim Ballard.
However, Mame’s “bosom buddy” Vera Charles, is played by the age-appropriate and always delightful Lourelene Snedecker.
“Mame” has a live band listed in the program, but the musicians are not visible, and the sound they create is so heavily amplified it might as well have been pre-recorded.
On the plus side Ryan Sell is one really cute kid and self-assured as younger Patrick Dennis, who becomes Mame’s ward when his father dies. It was the real-life Patrick Dennis who wrote the memoire on which the book Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee based their script.
Also excellent in the comic role of Mame’s long-suffering personal secretary Agnes Gooch is Irene Adjan. Playing the insufferable killjoy Dwight Babcock is the always professional Jeffrey Bruce.
No, this is not the best “Mame” I have ever seen, but I can honestly say this is the best I’ve seen in years, and Leslie Uggams delivers where it counts in the score’s best ballad, “If He Walked Into My Life.” Lavishly costumed, “Mame” is all about Jerry Herman’s wonderful music, and with that Leslie Uggams can “coax the blues right out of the horn.”
Tickets are $72. Student tickets are $25 advance or $15 rush one hour before curtain. Call 561-995-2333.