The folks who run the Annapolis Dinner Theater must be living right.
When Cherie Brackett, the star of ADT's "Mame," suddenly became too ill to perform on the show's second weekend, into their laps dropped Jean Anne Kain, a veteran actress who was able to throw herself fully into this wonderful role with a minimum of rehearsal time.
The result of her heroic efforts gave everybody's mint julep a kick. When the star returns and a few loose ends are tightened up, the Dinner Theater will have a worthy successor to "Sugar Babies," the naughty burlesque review that kept box office employees jumping for months.
This "Mame" is a lively, well-sung production that conveys admirably the warmth, humor and sincerity of the book and score.
Kain attacks the role with true style and elan. Mame's madcap, carefree elements are realized fully. She looks the part in spades and knows how to play for a laugh, as in the hilarious "Man In the Moon" sequence. She also sings very well. Her haunting "If He Walked Into My Life," which, even in lesser hands reduces me to a quivering mass every time I hear it, was exceptional.
Save for some pitch problems in "MyBest Girl" (a problem shared by her young Patrick) and one or two slow cues, her last-minute efforts were incorporated exceptionally wellinto the glamorous, upbeat production.
I'm sure management's sighof relief at having dodged this bullet could have been heard from low-flying aircraft.
The distinguishing feature of this "Mame," as it's been with other ADT productions, is the depth of the cast. They don't let down over there; character roles are played with unrelentingenergy.
Marti Pogonski is a shameless larcenist, stealing the show at will whenever "Gooch" walks onstage in her orthopedic oxfords.
Chuck Richards is suitably charming as Beauregard, Mame's Rhett Butleresque-husband. Other excellent bits are turned in by Mary Armour as the scrumptiously idiotic Gloria Upson and Judy Smith as Beauregard's menacing Confederate mama.
The three Patricks are all agreeableenough, though only Bill Baker in the nephew's adult incarnation gives off enough energy to animate an independent character. Young Patrick is curiously subdued for a boy so thoroughly inspired by his full-of-life auntie.
I was also less than taken with the production's Dwight Babcock, the banker who continually pressures Mame to provide nephew Patrick with a more "normal" upbringing than she's willing to allow. Saturday's Babcock became a snarling, nasty man instead of the snooty bore who might have provided a bit of a comic foil for Mame's irreverence.
In its overall execution, the show is already in fairly good shape. Pacing is adept, and the general look and feel of the production have settled in nicely.
There are still some kinks to be worked out, however. The sequence detailing Beauregard's demise wasthe victim of a premature entrance. Not all chorus members know their words yet, and the choreography was occasionally less than unanimous.
But a bit of repetition should take care of these problems, andsoon the whole plantation should be humming on all cylinders.
Mame's infectious enthusiasm seems to have reached the kitchen, where the Annapolis Dinner Theater's chefs are serving up delicacies reminiscent of the bill of fare at the Ritz. Angel hair pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, chicken piccatta in an herbal beurre blanc, and scampi Provencale are the highlights.