Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Arizona Broadway Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Jason Alexander at Arizona Musicfest and Once

Renée Kathleen Koher and Cast
Photo by Alexxis Grant, Timeless Present Photos
Just like its title character who lives life to the fullest, Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of the musical Mame is bold, brassy, colorful, and full of life. With a wonderful performance by Renée Kathleen Koher as the lovable Mame, bright creative elements, and excellent choreography, this is a smart, solid, and winning production of the 1966 musical.

Mame, which has a book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee and a score by Jerry Herman, and was based on the novel by Patrick Dennis, is set in New York City, beginning during prohibition and moving forward over a period of twenty years through the Great Depression and ending in the late 1940s. The plot follows an orphan boy named Patrick who is sent to live with his only remaining relative, his madcap Auntie Mame whose life of decadence and hedonism is turned upside down by Patrick's arrival. While at first, she is reluctant at the thought of having to be responsible for the young boy, Mame quickly forms a strong bond with him and sets about to teach him about life, declaring "Life's a banquet and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death." As both Mame and Patrick grow older and find love, Patrick's independence and choice in a spouse and Mame's stubbornness threaten to test their once strong bond.

Renée Kathleen Koher has appeared in dozens of shows at Arizona Broadway Theatre and her portrayal of Mame is wonderful. She looks glamorous and radiant and is appropriately eccentric and larger than life, yet she never pushes so far as to become unbelievable. Her connection with her fellow cast members is authentic and her clear singing voice soars on her many songs, including a heartfelt and moving "If He Walked into My Life." It is another winning performance from Koher.

The role of the young Patrick Dennis is double cast and was played by AJ Riddle at the performance I attended in a portrayal that is charming, sweet and sincere. Riddle and Koher have a great bond on stage that makes for an affectionate, thoughtful, and natural relationship between Mame and Patrick. Ryan Ardelt plays the older Patrick and does a fine job in addition to also showing off his exceptional dance skills in the ensemble in the first act. As Vera Charles, Mame's closest friend, Carolyn McPhee is lush, bold and brassy, and her duet with Koher on the comical song "Bosom Buddies" is a highlight of the show.

Dwan Hayes plays Agnes Gooch, Patrick's nanny. Agnes has lived such a sheltered life that she is shocked at first by Mame's lifestyle. Hayes is good in the role, but misses some of the wacky humor of the part. Max Mendoza is bright and charming as Mame's butler, Ito. Steve McCoy is strong and warm as Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, the man Mame falls in love with, and Alden Caple is firm as Dwight Babcock, the strict and ultra-conservative banker who is the executor of Patrick's father's will and who has a say in how Patrick is brought up. Brody Wurr is fun as Babcock's son, and Michael Weaver not only provides fairly solid direction but also does a nice job portraying both Beauregard's fierce mother and the father of the woman Patrick falls in love with. The ensemble members play numerous roles where they shine and they are also all exceptional dancers.

The choreography by Kurtis Overby is excellent, especially the energetic steps for the title song that build to a rousing climax. Lizzie Webb's music direction delivers perfect notes from the large cast and the small orchestra. The set design by Douglas A Clarke has some lovely period touches and several moving set pieces and drops that work very well to depict the many locations in the show. Cassandra Klaphake's costumes are wonderful, especially the many gorgeous gowns for Koher. The sound design by Jesse Worley is bright and clear and Bret Reese's lighting is colorful and sharp.

Mame at Arizona Broadway Theatre is a first-rate production of this classic musical.

Mame runs through February 26, 2023, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call 623 776-8400.

Direction by Michael Weaver
Choreography: Kurtis Overby
Music Direction: Lizzie Webb
Set Design: Douglas A Clarke
Costume Design: Cassandra Klaphake
Sound Design: Jesse Worley
Lighting Design: Bret Reese
Props Coordination: Jamie Hohendorf-Parnell
Stage Manager: Leigh Treat
Executive Producer: Kiel Klaphake
Casting and Artistic Producer: Cassandra Klaphake

Mame Dennis: Renée Kathleen Koher
Agnes Gooch: Dwan Hayes
Vera Charles: Carolyn McPhee
Cousin Fan: Kimberly Abrams
Patrick (adult): Ryan Ardelt
Leading Man/Uncle Jeff: Tony Blosser
Gregor: Tim Canali
Dwight Babcock: Alden Caple
Madame Banislowski/Mrs. Upson: Kat Gold
Patrick Dennis (age 10): AJ Riddle
Gloria Upson: Katie Jurich
Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside: Steve McCoy
Ralph Devine:Tyler Mell
Ito: Max Mendoza
Elevator Boy: Evan Sheets
Sally Cato: Allie Tambourine
Mr. Upson/ Mother Burnside/Stage Manager. Michael Weaver
Pegeen Ryan: Ashley Woodson
Modern Dance Teacher: Elizabeth Worley
Messenger/Junior Babcock: Brody Wurr