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The Writing of Mame

Commentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

Mame is unusual in that relatively little transpires between the central characters, a fun-loving aunt and her nephew, who grows from a small boy to a young man. In a sense, the show is about the philosophy that Mame espouses - to live life to the fullest. We watch her embody her creed through a series of fun adventures. While they're perfectly enjoyable, the nephew doesn't seem to alter the course of her life very much. And the poignancy of the second act, when Mame feels she's not accomplished her desired influence, doesn't feel quite earned. But Jerry Herman's songs dramatize this and other moments so effectively, you don't notice how little has happened.

Herman is a master of putting positive affirmations into song: one gets the sense he truly believes everything he writes, himself. The high point of the score - and I think it's Herman's best - is when we see a comically physical manifestation of Mame's teachings, and Gooch's Song asks "What do I do now?" The range of the song is unusually large, and this was borne of a work session Herman had with the actress playing the role. She apparently was kidding around, adding some ridiculously high notes and he instantly incorporated these into the song, recognizing that such wild flights in the soprano register were both very funny and totally in character for Gooch. The low point is probably That's How Young I Feel, which simply repeats the same descending motive four times in quick succession. That's too much repetition for most composers' tastes. We usually don't like to hear the same things more than two times in a row.

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Cast Recordings

Mame Original CastMame (1966 Original Broadway Cast) from Amazon.comStarring Angela Landsbury and Bea Arthur. Includes bonus tracks of composer Jerry Herman performing tracks. Songs include: Overture, St. Bridget, It's Today, Open A New Window, The Man In The Moon, My Best Girl, We Need A Little Christmas, Mame, The Letter, My Best Girl (Reprise), Bosom Buddies, Gooch's Song, That's How Young I Feel, If He Walked Into My Life, Act 2: Finale, St. Bridget--Jerry Herman and Alice Borden, It's Today--Jerry Herman and Alice Borden, Camouflage--Jerry Herman and Alice Borden, Open a New Window--Jerry Herman and Alice Borden, and Mame--Jerry Herman and Alice Borden

Sheet Music

Mame (Vocal Score) from Amazon.com

"Bosom Buddies" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

Auntie Mame from Amazon.com Patrick Dennis' novel upon about the irreverent adventures of a little boy and his Aunt upon which the musical Mame was based.

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