To see a critically acclaimed musical just as it was presented on Broadway, but close to home, look no farther than the Francis Wilson Playhouse's production of Mame.
"When we produce a show, we have applied for royalties, so we're governed by the royalty contract," said Gabrielle Snapp, who manages the Clearwater theater. "That means we produce a show as identical as humanly possible on a community stage to how the show was written, produced and presented for Broadway."
Mame was first presented at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City in 1966. Words like flamboyant, eccentric and colorful describe the character and the musical, which is about — who else? — Mame.
She is a well-to-do woman of the 1920s who is left to raise her late brother's son, Patrick. She considers him a delightful gift and rather than change her ways, pulls him into her bohemian lifestyle and their lives become a series of adventures.
The community theater actors are passionate about pulling the audience into Mame's adventures.
Kristen Buescher Rowell grew up in Clearwater and performed in her first show at Francis Wilson when she was 9 years old. She plays Mame Dennis.
"Mame's a larger-than-life character and the first thing I thought of when I started learning the part was how different she is from me," Rowell said. "Then I began to realize how much we had in common. She loves life. She judges people on their best days — not by what rules they follow, but by how they love other people. She's about celebrating life and the best things in it. I've really enjoyed being able to bring her to life. It's daunting, but fun."
Several dates of production have already sold out. The theater has also sold four additional benefit performances to local groups that will use the show as a fundraising effort for their own charities. But there are still plenty of tickets available for the show, which is designed to dazzle the audience.
"We'll have elaborate sets and costumes," Snapp said. "And we have a stellar cast of local community actors who have beautiful voices and are well acquainted with the stage."
One of those actors is Cherie B. Albury, who plays Vera Charles. "My character is the Broadway star, first lady of the theater and she's totally self-absorbed," Albury said. "She's a lot of fun to play. I get to come onstage, be funny and wear gorgeous outfits."
While Albury prepared for her role on the stage, she also helped out back stage on the elaborate set, even reupholstering several furniture pieces. The set was designed by the production's director and producer, Jason Fortner, and Albury also credits the builders and crew members who created the set pieces.
"They really outdid themselves on the set," Albury said. "It's fabulous from the details in Mame's mansion and her bedroom to the plantation with its shutters and front porch. The set has so much attention to detail. It will make a beautiful show."