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Weekend Preview May 19-24
Bob Dylan tributes, Deborah Voigt, Tom Paxton, Bill Kirchen, John Kirk and Trish Miller

Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday in Style
Paying tribute to the greatest rock songwriter ever

FILM REVIEW: In a Better World and Of Gods and Men
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
Opera star to sing arias, show tunes on Saturday, May 21

Famed Spiritual Teacher to Speak on Nonviolence
Mother Maya in free talk at Sruti Yoga in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday May 20 at 7pm

Special Effects Wizard to Be Honored by Film Festival
Doug Trumbull to be Feted by BIFF

Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

Talk about a small world
Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
A Farewell from Publisher Michael Zivyak

twiGs Branches Out
Lenox boutique launches new e-tail site

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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[THEATER REVIEW] MAME at Barrington Stage Company

Listen to Seth's audio review of MAME as broadcast on WAMC Northeast Public Radio::
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Starring Sandy Duncan
Directed by Julianne Boyd
Through October 15, 2006

review by SETH ROGOVOY, critic-at-large, BERKSHIRE LIVING Magazine

(PITTSFIELD, October 9, 2006) -- Other than for her red hair, the diminutive, perky Sandy Duncan – she of Peter Pan and Funny Face – may have seemed to some like an unlikely choice to fill the shoes of such boisterous comediennes as Lucille Ball, Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch, and Gypsy Rose Lee, all of whom played the role of MAME at one time or another. But after seeing Duncan in Barrington Stage Company’s semi-staged concert version of the much beloved Jerry Herman musical this weekend, all such doubts vanish.

In this stripped down, minimalist production emphasizing the songs and the skeleton of the story, Duncan more than shines – she demonstrates the difference between a professional and a star. Talent is one thing, and there are plenty of talented singers, actors, and dancers in this production's cast. But Duncan has that indefinable essence, that charisma, that commands a playgoer's attention and doesn't let go.

It doesn't hurt either that Duncan can sing, act, and dance with the best of them, nor that director Julianne Boyd has assembled a talented corps from top to bottom for this revival, which runs through next Sunday at Barrington Stage Company's new home in downtown Pittsfield.

While the theater company didn't have the time nor the funding to stage a full-dress, fully staged version of MAME, this semi-staged concert version will undoubtedly please those already familiar with the story of the free-spirited Mame Dennis -- the "Bohemian Delilah," as one character refers to her, who feasts on life's banquet -- and entice those new to the story of the eccentric aunt who raises her orphaned nephew, Patrick, in her very unorthodox lifestyle.

While the story might seem a quaint relic of the past with its veiled, unspoken allusions to racism and homophobia, one can easily imagine how incisive this portrayal of the free-thinking Mame must have been when the show first opened in 1966 at the height of the civil rights movement.

But MAME doesn't serve up a heavy dose of politics or social criticism. Rather, it uses that conflict as a means to celebrate the spirit of independence in the title character, while sending up those conformists who time will soon leave behind in the dustbin of history. And it does so with great craft, as Jerry Herman's songs seamlessly interweave with the musical's book.

And those songs, including such now-standards as “We Need a Little Christmas,” “If He Walked Into My Life,” “Bosom Buddies,” and, of course, the title song, are delivered in pitch-perfect renditions by Duncan and the able supporting cast, including Diane Findlay as Mame's friend, Vera; Johnny Schaffer as the young Patrick; and Joyce Chittick, who turns in an especially delightful, quirky performance as Patrick's nanny, Agnes Gooch.

While the production is minimal – there is almost no stage set, few props, and the terrific six-piece band is in full view right on stage – this hardly matters at all. Many of the actors even had scripts in hand, but I never noticed a single glance at one and hardly a dropped line. The production numbers, such as they are, achieve their maximum effect solely and directly through the strength of the material and the performances, all of which are outstanding, and a real treat to enjoy in the intimate confines of Barrington Stage's newly renovated, comfortable theater.

--review by SETH ROGOVOY, critic-at-large, BERKSHIRE LIVING Magazine

I sat behind you and saw it exactly the way you did. You can see why Sandy Duncan is a star.

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