Showstopper: “Mame”

I’ve seen other video of Angela Lansbury in the short-lived revival of Mame, but nothing with such clarity. It’s stunning to see this so clearly and with close-ups on the legend as she reacts through the number. Onna White supplied the choreography. This was apparently filmed on July 24, 1983, the revival’s opening night. I was 17 days old, happily oblivious to the joy happening onstage at the Gershwin Theatre! The title song is a thrilling moment. Mame has just won over the stubborn old South family of her beloved Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside by an unexpected display of horsemanship and being the first to ever bring a live fox back from a fox hunt. What follows is one of the great showstoppers in all musical theatre: the show’s title song. It starts out low-key with a striking banjo accompaniment as the company sings her praises. At first, Lansbury has her back to the audience – breaking one of the cardinal rules of stage acting – with thrilling results. As the number builds and builds, she becomes incorporated into the song as the ensemble pays her a spirited tribute. The leading lady does not sing one word of the song, but it is a celebration of her and everything that she represents to the characters onstage and the people in the audience. It’s simple, euphoric and it never failed to rouse the audience. Enjoy:


9 thoughts on “Showstopper: “Mame””

  1. Minute 3:30 – KICKING UP TO HEAVEN! 58 FRIGGIN’ YEARS OLD and still kicking higher than the chorus girls. What a brilliant way to start this morning! Every morning should be a Mame Morning. This Mame-ist appreciates this post very much.

  2. PS, while I’m not sure this is pro-shot, the videographer certainly has a very steady hand. Bravo. But could it possible be a portion of the fabled pro-shot that was for Showtime? Could it? If so, is that slowly being released out into the world? I won’t complain if so. I have heard that there is a pirate that has a copy of it. If only… either way, it’s a good day to be a Mame-ist!

  3. I was wondering the same thing myself SarahB. Or if it was just part of the press reel? It would be nice to find the whole fabled Showtime vid. I don’t see why they go to the bother of taping shows and then never releasing them (“Caroline, or Change” anyone?) Hopefully more like this will pop up!!

    I’ve been watching this non-stop since I found it the other night. It’s sheer bliss!!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! I wish Angela Lansbury had been in the movie version that cast Lucille Ball. Lucy was adorable, but nowhere near as talented as Angela. Amazing!!!

  5. Have to say I love your enthusiasm for MAME – it’s been a 43-year love affair for me that started with seeing the movie AUNTIE MAME in early 1968 and then discovering that the story had become the current musical hit MAME – saw the show for the first time that summer, by which time Janis Paige had replaced Lansbury, but I loved it anyway. Finally caught up with Lansbury on tour in 1976 (yes, with Anne Francine as Vera). Also on Broadway saw Sheila Smith (subbing for Jane Morgan, who had the flu) and Ann Miller, who was great. One wall in my living room is given over to MAME-orabilia, the other to AUNTIE MAME-orabilia. I think the ’83 revival scaled down the dancers and chorus – I seem to recall a stage just FILLED with people in when I saw it in the late 1960s, but no matter, it still works quite well. This revival was brought into New York with little advance notice and wasn’t wildly embraced by the critics, who carped that there was little doubt that the cast of MAME-veterans had done this hundreds of times. I don’t think a revival of MAME would fly today – first off, audiences raised on PHANTOM, LES MIZ, RENT, WICKED and even THE PRODUCERS would probably find it stupefyingly dull and old-fashioned, and then there’s the problem of finding a suitable MAME – there are far fewer capable, qualified stars today who could carry this role and show. The best they could do for the Kennedy Center in 2006 was Christine Baranski, and it wasn’t deemed worthy of attempting a Broadway transfer.

  6. This video is a bootleg of the show, not the Showtime video. I have the whole video around somewhere, though I did not film it. I think it was Ken Mendelbaum, the author of NOT SINCE CARRIE who made a lot of these early Broadway video boots, including this one. The rumor is he would buy out entire rows of the theater for his friends so the folks sitting next to him wouldn’t report him (cameras were HUGE back then!). Interestingly, I have several audio recordings of the show; I have the first read/sing through with the original Bway cast (not the revival, and I have a soundboard recording of Angela doing the show in LA, and I have some audio of her auditioning for the show (and Kaye Ballard as well). I think Jerry Herman was a big audio recorder.

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