Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane University
Individual tickets $26-$35, season tickets $68-$95
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun.
Tulane University, Dixon Hall
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
The Music Man
July 29 - Aug. 1
At a rehearsal for Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane University's season opener Mame, leading actress Elizabeth Argus entertained the cast with stories about her grandmother, who threw raucous parties and even blew a bugle to wake up revelers the next morning.
"There is a lot in Mame that resonates with me," says Argus about the free-spirited socialite at the center of the musical.
Based on Patrick Dennis' 1955 novel Auntie Mame, the musical, featuring songs by Jerry Herman, originally opened on Broadway in 1966 with stars Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur. Mame is a wealthy and eccentric woman who's ahead of her times and enjoying the roaring 1920s. When she is entrusted with the care of her young nephew Patrick, she introduces him to her world of flappers, nudists and bohemians. As Patrick grows up, the pair rides out one calamity after another from the Depression to his disastrous engagement. They receive much help along the way from Mame's eclectic and ever-expanding group of friends. In the face of each catastrophe, the cast belts out numbers such as "We Need a Little Christmas," "Bosom Buddies" and the title song.
"She's just the type of person who, no matter what happens, is able to pick herself back up," says director Michael Howard. He expects Mame to resonate well with this summer's audience. "It's pretty relevant today. I could have set it in New Orleans," where, he says, "everybody allows everybody to be themselves, and that's what Mame does. The only thing she won't put up with is hypocrisy."
Argus agrees that Mame and her joie de vivre would fit right in with many New Orleans families. "We're all open to different people and different points of view and different ways of life," Argus says, adding that Mame also knows how to throw a great party.
But Mame's contagious enthusiasm is not just about good times. "She changes people's lives," Howard says.
Argus, who is a music educator at Cabrini High School, says, "I use the same analogy from the show with my students." In the opening, Mame tells the wide-eyed Patrick, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Argus also tries to open her students' eyes. "We just said all these great things about New Orleans, but it can also be very insular," she says. "There's so much out there, and these kids have been living off of oatmeal! There's so much more to life, and I'm going to help you discover what you don't know."
Tulane Summer Lyric's season also features A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (July 8-11) and The Music Man (July 29 – Aug. 1).