The character of Mame, portrayed by Rosalind Russell in 1958, Angela Lansbury in 1966 and Kevin Hanson in 2010.
If you have never seen the story of Mame, either as a musical or as a play, on stage or on film, you are missing out.
First written as two books by Patrick Dennis, the story of Mame is that of an eccentric woman who raises her nephew amidst a life filled with parties, artists and adventure. In the course of his alternative education, nephew Patrick learns to live life to the fullest and not attempt to be anyone other than himself. The first novel, "Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade," published in 1955, spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list.
Over the next two decades the story of Mame and Patrick was transformed into a Broadway play, a film, then a Broadway musical, and a movie musical. But in the years since, Mame's outrageous personality has faded in contrast to our modern world. What was unconventional in the 1950s is well, unremarkable by today's standards.
However, Steven Meerdink and Kevin Hansen, the co-founders of Minneapolis Musical Theater, thought the message of the story was still worth telling. And, Hansen says, it's simply a great musical:
It's a little bit too much of a lost gem - people don't realize how many of the songs they know are from this show.
The soundtrack to Mame features songs like "Bosom Buddies," "We Need a Little Christmas" and "If He Walked Into My Life."
So how to update the show so that Mame seems as outrageous as she did back in 1955? The music is too specific to the time period to change the setting of the story.
For Meerdink and Hansen, it only required one simple change. Hansen would play the lead role. Meerdink explains:
This is not a "wink wink - she's a man! show." Mame is all about "be who you are" and this just happens to be who she is. She's an advocate for everybody.
Other than a few key changes to accomodate Hansen's range, nothing else about the story has been altered. No line changes whatsoever. Hansen says it's really the same story:
That's the intent. It's more to highlight what's been muted, so we're going back to the original intent of the show and that character, going back to its roots.
Meerdink and Hansen say it's fitting that the show will be up for Twin Cities Pride, which marches right past the Illusion Theater's front door on Hennepin Avenue, where the show is being staged.
So what's the most challenging aspect of taking on the role of Mame? Kevin Hansen says it's all about stamina:
You start and two and a half hours later you stop and it feels like 10 minutes. The only breaks Mame gets from stage are for lightning fast costume changes, and there are about 16 of them.
Meerdink says Hansen's Mame is probably more actively involved in the dance numbers than Angela Lansbury was on Broadway, yet Hansen is actually five years older than Lansbury was when she took on the role.
Meerdink adds the real balancing act for this production has been to make Mame outrageous while not letting her turn into a charicature. Hansen agrees:
You can get tripped up by starting with "wild, eccentric, crazy." Nobody starts there, they start with "this is who I am." It's a real person with real relationships. So we started from there and it's only in the last couple of weeks that we've been adding some eccentricities to her character. And we make sure those traits come from the inside, not the outside.
"Mame" runs June 11 - 27 at the Illusion Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
Posted at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2010
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Film
The A-Team (Image courtesy 20th Century Fox photo:Michael Muller)
It's all about expectations really. Sometimes you go into a movie not hoping for much and leave pleasantly surprised. "The A-Team" was such an experience.
Being old enough, sadly, to have seen George Peppard and Mr T in the original "A-Team" TV series in my young adulthood it was clear the 21st century adaptation would have to walk a fine line between the expectations of two centuries.
First it has to capture the original's preposterous premise (heavily armed former soldiers on the run from the law running around doing good deeds with high explosives) laced with cornball humor spouted by one dimensional characters (Mr T's catchphrase "Pity the fool" still rattles around in many brains.)
Yet it also has to feed the modern appetite for a little more depth of plot and a lot more spectacle.
Director Joe Carnahan ("Smokin' Aces") gets it right in this summer audience pleaser. Liam Neeson plays Col. Hannibal Smith leading his volatile but effective team of renegades whose loyalty is apparently based on the fact they have matching military tattoos.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson steps into Mr T's shoes as the mohawked B.A. Baracus, Bradley Cooper plays the smooth talking Face, and Sharlto Copley (recently seen herding prawns in "District 9") plays the crazed pilot Murdoch. Jessica Biel weaves into the plot as one of Face's many former girlfriends. She also happens to be a high-level government operative who has more than a passing interest in the A-Team's activities.
They are an appealing bunch, and Carnahan drops them into various hotspots around the world, which provide attractive backgrounds for the ensuing mayhem.
The plot has an appropriate level of preposterousness, with the team laying out hugely complicated plans which often depend on anticipating quixotic reactions by several different groups of highly intelligent and malevolent people all out to kill them. Yes, there's something about a plot of print billions of dollars worth of counterfeit US currency, but the possible collapse of the US economy is just a small thread in the larger A-Team web.
The special effects are magnificent, and Carnahan amps up the action wonderfully as the story continues. It says something that the flying tank comes only half way through the film.
Silly isn't the word for it. Fun is. As plans and counterplots pile one on top of another you just have to go with the flow, which after all is the summer movie experience in a nutshell.