“MAME” the musical opens June 24, 2015

Written by By John Hankins

The larger-than-life heroine, ‘Auntie’ Mame, is appearing on the Ojai ACT stage July 10 to Aug. 9 with all the award-winning music, dancing and excitement that made it a Broadway hit whilethumbing its nose at convention and conformity.

“MAME” (Tracey Williams Sutton) is the ultimate Greenwich Village Bohemian, whose digs atBeekman Place represent the epicenter ofeccentrics, artists, actors, freethinkers and connoisseurs.

Directed by Brian Robert Harris, the musical features “a remarkably hard-working cast.” After all, “the dance numbers require Broadway quality choreography” and a score that embraces the exhilaration of living an exciting life.

The musical was crafted from Patrick Dennis’ 1955 novel, "Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade,” that stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller list for 112 weeks. It was made into a play in 1956 starring Rosalind Russell who also starred in the 1958 film. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee turned it into a musical, opening on Broadway in 1966 starring Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur (“Bosom Buddies”), winning two of its three Tony Awards.

It is notable that its initial success came during the McCarthy era where non-conformity was considered un-American to some, but Mame had no such notions, condemning it by word and example. Live life to its fullest, she sings: “open a new window, open a new door, travel a new highway that’s never been tried before.”

Mame’s lifestyle is tested when her late brother’s 10-year-old son Patrick (Rhett Speer) comes to live with her, accompanied by the dowdy, straight-laced Agnes Gooch (Anna Kotula), and later when the college-aged Patrick (Jack Evans) appears enamored by the conservative culture of Connecticut.

Throughout Mame’s life, the lushful actress Vera Charles (Laura Ring) is by her side, and their signature duet, “Bosom Buddies,” is a show-stopping highlight now as it was then.

This is a song and dance driven show, and so the Ensemble is a character in itself. Produced by Herb Hemming and Bill Spellman, the captivating dance numbers are choreographed by the dynamic duo of Anna Kotula and Beverley Sharpe. The era, from the Roaring 20s to the 40s are captured via costumes made and chosen by Edmund Andreas and Hayley Weed.

“MAME” runs from July 10 to Aug 9, at Ojai ACT, 113 S. Montgomery St.; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 general, $20 for seniors, students and Art Center members. Reservations at 640-8797 or www.OjaiACT.org.