The legendary Jerry Herman, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee musical Mame opened for the first time on Broadway in May 1966. While its anniversary is only tomorrow, if this much-loved titular auntie taught us anything, it’s that any day is a cause for celebration so in the spirit of “It’s Today,” Musical Cyberspace is celebrating the 54th anniversary of Mame with dreams of a revival and who might be a great fit for this star role, one introduced by Angela Lansbury all those years ago.
5. Carmen Cusack
Let’s start with an outlier. Tony Award nominee Carmen Cusack may not have the kind of star power on which producers rely to carry a full-scale mainstem revival of a musical like Mame. On the other hand, she was one of the main draws of the flop musical, Bright Star, with the role of Alice Murphy catapulting her to a whole new level of recognition as a musical theatre performer. She’s also bankable enough to carry a new musical, having had Over Sunset, a new show penned by Tom Kitt, Michael Korie and James Lapine, lined up before the coronavirus pandemic hit. So why not a revival that has a fond legacy to help balance the books? Cusack is charismatic, warm and she has range. She’d likely make good playing Mame.
4. Amy Adams
When Broadway producers need a star that transcends the boundaries of musical theatre fandom, they often turn to Hollywood for someone who can carry a show – an approach which yields mixed results, to be honest. Amy Adams has the singing chops to play Mame and it would be great to see her make a Broadway debut in the role. She’s probably one of the best film actresses never to win an Oscar, despite multiple nominations. Wrapping up her talents in the role in a production that her star power could command could be a winning combination.
3. Sutton Foster
Two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster is a Broadway darling who can be relied upon to carry a show, which she’s done to great acclaim for two decades since her star-making turn in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Having tacked up additional four Tony Award nominations in addition to her wins, it appears that when Foster steps onstage, there’s no stopping her.
2. Audra McDonald
There are a number of Broadway fans who’d love to see six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald take on the role. It’d be a gamble, perhaps – Mame doesn’t traditionally sound the way most of us are accustomed to hearing McDonald sing – but then again, McDonald has shown she can do far more than hit the high notes that catapulted her to the status of solid gold Broadway divadom. Certainly, her acting work is rock-solid proof that she has what it takes to play the role and her stint playing Lady Day gave us a sense that there more of a vocal chameleon there than a superficial remembrance of her career to date might spark. She’s also got the star power a revival of this show would need. And there’s much subversive delight to be had when considering how that title number might play and shift with a woman of colour in the role.
1. Toni Collette
When it comes to roles that require the kind of Broadway diva that musical theatre fans adore, there’s hardly a case where Toni Collette wouldn’t be right at the top of the list. The last time Collette led a musical on the Great White Way, it was as Queenie in Michael John LaChuisa’s incredible contemporary piece, The Wild Party, an experience which it appears was difficult for everyone involved. The past being in the past, there have been rumours over the past year that a Scott Rudin-produced revival of Mame with Collette might be on the cards and its a dream match of role and performer over which many a Broadway baby has mused. For my part, I think she’d slay it.
Who else could you see in the role? Anyone want to go to bat for Katrina Lenk or Stephanie J. Block? Feel free to head on down to the comments box to share your dream casting!
Obviously, you are thinking of the Great White Way. On the other side of the pond, most of the names you mention are utterly unknown, which isn’t to suggest they wouldn’t be wonderful. Surely you meant to audition Miss Ebersole for the role? Are we assuming that a degree of dance gift is also required in the part? That apart, I would have said Dame Judi Dench would be a natural fit for the comedy and the pathos. But London’s currently postponed Dolly is the obvious choice; our very own Miss Adelaide/Mrs Lovett/Mama Rose herself, Imelda Staunton.
Thanks for your comment! While my list does highlight actresses that are based in the USA, I would say that four of them have international acclaim to some extent thanks to their work on film or television. Only one, Carmen Cusack, hasn’t had that kind of a breakthrough – and she is the “wild card” on this list. As for the names you mention, I was really looking for performers who could be great in the role now, rather than legendary names like Judi Dench or Imelda Staunton, who might have been great in the role when they were the right age to play it – although I’m not convinced that either is really right for it. Christine Ebersole had her shot at the role in 1999, with Kelly Bishop as her Vera.