Theatre Review: MAME – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Tracie Bennett (Mame) and the cast of MAME

Tracie Bennett (Mame) and the cast of MAME. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

5 out of 5 stars

A prime example of the golden age of musical theatre, Jerry Herman’s 1966 classic MAME lights up the quaint Hope Mill Theatre

Having just celebrated its fourth birthday, it’s easy to see why the Hope Mill Theatre is making a name for itself. Following popular productions such as Aspects Of Love, Hair, and Spring Awakening, Mame feels like a full-sized Broadway production crammed into this amazing little theatre.

Mame tells the story of how Mame’s madcap lifestyle is changed when her nephew, Patrick, is brought into her care, as his only living relative. Mame loses her fortune in the Wall Street Crash, and is forced into multiple jobs, none of which she is any good at, until she meets and marries Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, a rich young man from Georgia. She inevitably struggles to fit in with his family, as they don’t appreciate her “yankee” lifestyle.

Tracie Bennett and Harriet Thorpe in MAME. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

Opening with the electric “It’s Today” our leading lady, Mame (played by Tracie Bennett) graces the stage to raucous applause from the packed out audience. Bennett’s portrayal of the eccentric bohemian is extremely lovable and energetic, an absolute joy to watch. Her friendship with Vera (Harriet Thorpe) is endearing and humorous, and her more tender moments with nephew Patrick (Lochlan White) really show the depths of this wonderful character. The show truly relies on her, and it isn’t an easy job, but Bennett does it effortlessly.

The rest of the cast do a wonderful job, especially the chorus, performing intricate and extravagant numbers, reminiscent of the classic musicals of the 1960s. “Open A New Window” was a particular stand out, though the title number did seem a little lacklustre. It never got as powerful vocally as it needed too, and it left the number missing something. As well as being glitzy and glamorous, the show is also incredibly funny, but it has some deeper, heartfelt moments too. “My Best Girl” is a particularly sweet moment in the show, made all the better by the chemistry between Patrick and Mame. However, none of the emotional moments are fully developed, and therefore fail to pack the punch they potentially could.

Tracie Bennett (Mame) and the cast of MAME. Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

Harriet Thorpe portrays Mame’s “Bosom Buddy” Vera beautifully, always the indulgent primadonna. Her duet with Bennett, “Bosom Buddies” is a comedic highlight of the show! Tim Flavin is another standout performer as the effortlessly charming Beauregard. His character isn’t present for long, but his charm and stage presence makes you wish he had a bigger role!

Nick Winston’s direction and choreography is fantastic and paired with Tim Mitchell’s lighting design, they manage to create a wonderful contrast between Mame’s bustling Manhattan lifestyle, and the dowdy small-towns she visits. Philip Whitcomb’s costume design also adds to this, really creating the glitzy, glamorous feel of an old Hollywood musical. The band is also incredible. It really adds to the “classic” feel of the whole production, with its swing style music and horn section.

Mame is a fabulous production. Glamorous and classy, yet packed witch comedy, it fully deserved the standing ovation it got. A lighthearted night at the theatre and a masterclass in classic musical theatre, Mame is drowned in glitz and packed with big, extravagant numbers. It’s tonnes of fun and more than measures up to the calibre the Hope Mill has set for itself the past four years.

MAME runs at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester until 9 November 2019.