Light the candles, get the ice out…roll the rug up, it’s today!
Everybody’s favorite madcap auntie, Mame Dennis, made her first appearance in Patrick Dennis’ 1955 novel Auntie Mame. The book was a cultural phenomenon, selling more than two million copies and staying over two years on the New York Times Best-Seller List. It was quickly followed in 1956 by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Broadway comedy of the same name starring Rosalind Russell and then by Warner Bros.’ lavish film version also starring Russell. But Auntie Mame arguably made her biggest splash when Angela Lansbury took the stage of the Winter Garden Theatre in 1966 for Lawrence, Lee, and composer-lyricist Jerry Herman’s musical simply entitled Mame.
With an opening night cast also including a martini-dry Beatrice Arthur as Mame’s best friend Vera Charles, Jane Connell as Agnes Gooch, Frankie Michaels as young Patrick, Jerry Lanning as adult Patrick, and Sab Shimono as Ito, Mame netted three Tony Awards (for Lansbury, Arthur, and Michaels) and ran for almost four years. Among its many highlights, Herman’s intoxicating score – equal parts fizzy joy and sheer heart – yielded the holiday standard “We Need a Little Christmas,” the duet favorite “Bosom Buddies,” and the dramatic “If He Walked Into My Life” for which Eydie Gorme earned a hit single and a Grammy Award. The showstopping title song drew covers from Bobby Darin, Louis Armstrong, and Herb Alpert, among others. Mame opened in London’s West End in February 1969 with stage and screen legend Ginger Rogers in the title role – but that production was never recorded. The only U.K. recording of the show to date (and one of the few recordings of the score in English) was made for the budget Major Minor label starring stage veteran Beryl Reid as Mame. Its original release was timed to fill the void in the U.K. marketplace for a homegrown recording of the show as the West End production was about to open. Now, that rare studio cast album is making its CD debut from Stage Door Records on April 30.
Beryl Reid (1919-1996) began her career in British music hall and had appeared onstage both in London and New York; in fact, she picked up a Tony Award as Best Actress in a Play for The Killing of Sister George in 1967 while the original Broadway run of Mame was still going strong. She reprised her role in the 1968 film version for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Reid had also previously sung Jerry Herman’s other big leading lady role – Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! – for a 1965 studio cast recording. She was joined on the recording by comedienne and soprano Joan Turner as Vera Charles as well as familiar session voices including Keith Knight, Fred Lucas, Patricia Whitmore, Charles Young, and The John McCarthy Singers. The 12-song album captured most of Herman’s score minus the brief opening “St. Bridget,” “The Letter,” and Patrick’s reprise of “My Best Girl.” It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on January 5, 1969 by Norman Newell, one of the most prominent producers of British cast recordings, with his usual hallmarks of quality. Geoff Love conducted the big, brassy orchestra.
The Mame recording received a U.S. LP release on the Illinois-based Musico Records, a budget subsidiary of the Musicor label (onetime home of Gene Pitney and George Jones, among others). Stage Door’s reissue of the album, remastered from stereo tape, adds two bonus tracks from Joan Turner, her 1954 Philips single release of “The Homecoming Waltz” b/w “The Shadow Waltz.” These sides were conducted by Wally Stott, later Angela Morley.
If you need a little Mame right this very minute, Stage Door’s reissue is available now for pre-order directly from the label as well as at Amazon worldwide. It hits stores on April 30 but pre-orders directly from the label typically arrive much earlier. You’ll find the pre-order links and track listing below.
Mame: London Studio Cast Recording (Major Minor LP 5005 (U.K.) /Musico LP MDS 1024 (U.S.), 1969 – reissued Stage Door Records STAGE 9082, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Stage Door)
- It’s Today
- Open a New Window
- The Man in the Moon
- My Best Girl
- We Need a Little Christmas
- Bosom Buddies
- Gooch’s Song
- That’s How Young I Feel
- If He Walked Into My Life
- The Homecoming Waltz – Joan Turner (Philips single P.B. 277, 1954)
- The Shadow Waltz – Joan Turner (Philips single P.B. 277, 1954)