December 21, 2006 to January 6, 2007
Dame Sybil Fitzgibbons
I Remember Mama
So does the story, inspired by John Van Druten's classic play of the same name, which director Joe Cascone points
out in his extensive and fascinating program notes, was produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1944. Taking the
episodic play and creating an entertaining musical was a challenge that Rodgers and his collaborators never quite
solved but Cascone refuses to let a good show die. He has assembled a strong ensemble cast, and presents the story
in an intimate setting that brings out all the homespun charm.
Yet, just when you think things are getting too saccharine, along comes a character like Uncle Chris to give the
show a bit of an edge. Larry Westlake makes Uncle Chris into a Mel Brooks-like curmudgeon who nearly steals the
show with his song "Easy Come Easy Go." As the hard-drinking family head balances warmth with the kids against
impatience with his unmarried sister Trina, given a delightfully amusing performance by Heather Goodall, and her
skittish suitor played with squirrel-like comic invention by Scotty Newlands.
In a brief but bright cameo Paula Wilkie enlivens the second half with her performance as the world famous author
Dame Sybil Fitzgibbons.
Most of the show, however, centres on the family. Though the script has these kids so obedient they make the Von
Trapp family look like heathens, every once in awhile one of them - usually Dana Whitelaw's Christine - comes out
with a good sarcastic line to cut the treacle.
The loving warmth of the family is palpable and although the script does get a little clichéd at times, the cast under
the firm direction of Joe Cascone, for the most part keeps it rooted in reality.
There are times when the show could use a little more reality and a little less show biz pizzazz. When the cast face
front and start singing and dancing, we are reminded that we are watching a musical comedy and not just peeking in
on this Norwegian family settling in San Francisco at the turn of the century.
Offsetting these sequences, however are moments of touching simplicity, notably the scenes between Papa (David
Haines in an uncharacteristically serious role for which he is well-suited) and Mama.
Caroline Moro-Dalicandro plays Mama with all the requisite spunk and backbone to make a multi-dimensioned
Andrea Strayer playing Katrin, the eldest daughter and narrator of the story could steal attention from Mama easily
but because she focuses our attention on Mama, it is sometimes easy to forget how important Katrin is to the story.
The final lingering look between Mama and Katrin at curtain time says it all. Talk about Method acting! These two
ladies play so beautifully off one another that you find yourself believing they really are mother and daughter.
The show, though not specifically a Christmas story begins and ends with the family's Christmas celebrations of
1910 and 1911. What better way to spend the holidays than a visit with Mama and the family?