Mame vs. Mame
By Eddie Shapiro
Out: Any other wisdom for Michele?
Busch: Well, the challenges I faced won't be challenges she'll face. I don't think she'll be as obsessed with Rosalind Russell's performance as I have been. She won't have that problem. Michele, like me, loves going to that serious place. I just love the dramatic moments of everything that I do. All my shows have moments of genuine feeling. I love getting serious, and I know that she loves moments of deep feelings too.
Lee: I like to explore. Sometimes these threads and through-lines in a musical are very thin. And so I feel it's one of my duties to find it and explore.
Out: Rosalind Russell said about Mame, 'Like all great characters in comic literature, she has declared open war on sham and pretense. She has a needle to prick every stuffed shirt and lay bare the hypocrisies of the right and the snobbish, the privileged and the prejudiced of this world.'
Lee: That's it. I think that it touches on what I brought up about her original family and growing up the black sheep. There's where it starts. The part of her that rebels against pretense and ultimately injustice is what makes this play today as relevant as it was when it was originally done.
Busch: Starring in a big musical like Mame must really be something. They did a masterful job of editing the book down to make room for the score. I miss a lot of stuff from the play. But there are a lot of times in the play where it feels so natural to break into song!
Lee: The music, I don't have to say, it's just one hit after the other, and it's so nice to do a musical where everything is just so wonderfully woven into the story. The music is very difficult. Much more difficult than one would think.
Out: And it's a marathon. There are, like, 11 songs for her!
Lee: I met with Jerry Herman before I started rehearsals. I wanted to get into his brain in terms of what he was thinking and what the character was thinking in each of the songs. It was really very gratifying for me as an actor to listen to the man who invented all that music.
Out: And it's no easier for you, Charles. Mame is in every scene.
Busch: You know, whenever I worry about having the stamina to pull the thing off, I think of all of the postmenopausal, chain-smoking dames who played this part over the past 50 years, who in those days didn't have one bit of bone density left or a single hormone in them. And they somehow got through it!