by Julia Doerr

One of my favorite literary characters since I first encountered her when I was a kid is Auntie Mame. I saw the straight play at a summer repertory theater in Montana when I was about 10, read the novel as a teenager, and have enjoyed the Rosalind Russell movie version many times over the years. I even went to a costume party once dressed as Auntie Mame, although I had to explain my costume to nearly all the other 5th-graders in attendance. Friday night, though, was my first full experience with the musical version, Mame, performed at the Lincoln Community Playhouse.

It was delightful.

I must say, Mame is a quite streamlined version of the story, without some of the complexity of the novel or even the play, but that’s to be expected from a musical. The flamboyant, independent, irrepressible, and forward-thinking Mame herself is still everything she’s supposed to be, and LCP Legend (so named in 2018) Karen Freimund Wills plays her with charm and spirited energy. Because of an article published in the Lincoln Journal-Star’s “Ground Zero” on Friday morning, I knew Wills’s performance marked a return to lead roles following some very serious physical therapy to recover from some very serious cancer surgery. Otherwise, I would never have guessed. Wills danced, sang, and moved about the stage with grace and apparent stamina. Her smile lit up the stage. Special kudos to her.

Some other performers I particularly enjoyed were Wade Bartels, as Mame’s good-hearted and ill-fated suitor, Beauregard Burnside; middle-schooler Zach Stevens as Young Patrick; and Danny Johnson in a couple of small roles played for big laughs. The rest of the cast members were all strong and enthusiastic. One thing I’ve come to love about LCP productions is the obvious enjoyment that infects both cast and audience. Everyone has fun.

Little touches mean a lot in a production like this. I loved the art deco scenery in Mame’s New York apartment and the whole series of fun outfits that Mame and her friend Vera got to wear. Thanks, Scenic Designer Nick Santiago and Costume Designer Maralee Maldavs.

Finally, the music in this musical was good too! A live pit orchestra enhanced the overall production value of the show, and the singing was strong, especially the numbers performed by the whole ensemble. Although the most familiar numbers from the score, “Mame” and “We Need a Little Christmas” were very well done, I found myself most moved by the duet, “My Best Girl,” performed by Wills and Stevens with a poignant sweetness.

Overall, this production of Mame amounts to a good-quality pretty romp that you will enjoy. Book your tickets now.

If you go: Mame is being performed at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, located at 2500 South 56th Street, in Lincoln. Remaining performances are May 4, 10, and 11 at 7:30 pm, and May 5 and 12 at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased online, at the box office, or over the phone at (402) 489-7529.

Julia Doerr is a retired high school English teacher with a lifelong love of plays, both as literature and performance. She assisted, as dramaturg, with the direction of several Shakespeare plays during her tenure at Lincoln High School, where she spent 27 of her 33 years teaching. Julia loves to attend the theater, to write, and to share her opinions.  That makes writing reviews her dream assignment.

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