50 Great Things About MAME

It’s MAME’s 50th Anniversary!

The Broadway musical MAME opened fifty years ago today. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list:

50 Great Things About MAME


  1. MAME opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on May 24th, 1966.
  2. It starred Angela Lansbury in her first over-the-title role.


    Angela Lansbury

  3. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee based the musical’s book on their 1956 play, Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell.
  4. MAME’s score was written by legendary composer/lyricist Jerry Herman, whose megahit HELLO, DOLLY! was already two years into its record-breaking run.
  5. MAME was originally to be titled My Best Girl.
  6. It all started with Patrick Dennis’ 1955 novel, Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade.MAMEBookCover
  7. Dennis also wrote the novel Little Me, which was made into a Broadway musical (also titled LITTLE ME), with book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman, and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh.
  8. The 1958 (non-musical) film Auntie Mame was based on the play, and featured Rosalind Russell reprising her Broadway performance.
  9. Roz Russell was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe.


    Rosalind Russell and Jan Handzlik in “Auntie Mame” (1958)

  10. Mame’s famous motto, “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-b*****s are starving to death,” is one of AFI’s 100 Best Movie Quotes (though, in the screenplay, it was softened to “suckers”)
  11. The score includes some of Jerry Herman’s most memorable songs, including “Open A New Window,” “We Need A Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies,” and “If He Walked Into My Life.”


    Jane Connell and Angela Lansbury as Agnes Gooch and Mame Dennis

  12. Angela Lansbury, who won a Tony Award for this role, has won five Tonys in all: MAME (1966), DEAR WORLD (1969), GYPSY (1975), SWEENEY TODD (1979), and BLITHE SPIRIT (2009). Julie Harris has also won five, plus a special Tony. Only Audra McDonald has more, with six wins in all.
  13. Angela Lansbury had appeared in only one musical before MAME: Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, in which she played the corrupt Mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper.
  14. Angela Lansbury was only 17 when she made her film debut in Gaslight, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.
  15. Bea Arthur was born to play Vera Charles!


    Beatrice Arthur as Vera Charles

  16. Bea Arthur was married to MAME’s director, Gene Saks.
  17. Mary Martin was originally offered the title role, but she turned it down.
  18. According to Stephen Citron, in his book Jerry Herman: Poet of the Showtune, some of the women considered to play the title role were: Eve Arden, Patrice Munsel, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Greer Garson, Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Arlene Francis, Tammy Grimes, Constance Bennett, Ann Southern, Doris Day, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Haviland, Lucille Ball, Irene Dunne, Beatrice Lillie, Julie Harris, Margaret Leighton, Elaine Stritch, Lena Horne, Jane Morgan, Geraldine Page, Dinah Shore, Maggie Smith, Georgia Brown, Kitty Carlisle, Nanette Fabray, Gisele MacKensie, Simone Signoret, Dolores Gray, Janet Gaynor, Phyllis Diller, Lisa Kirk, Barbara Cook, Kaye Ballard and Judy Garland.

    Mame musical theater geek

    Angela Lansbury and Jerry Herman in rehearsal

  19. Angela Lansbury’s first audition didn’t go so well. The auditorium was dark, except for a single arc light, and no one present had the authority to touch the light board. So they opened the street doors and made it work. Apparently, Ms. Lansbury did less than her best, but, after a private session with Jerry Herman, she completely wowed them at a later audition by singing “It’s Today” and “If He Walked Into My Life” – off book!
  20. Jerry Herman wanted Judy Garland to replace Angela Lansbury when Lansbury’s run ended, and he worked with Garland on the numbers. But the producers knew she was unfit to handle the rigors of a Broadway schedule.
  21. Three years after opening, on October 6th, 1969, MAME transferred to The Broadway Theatre, where it remained until closing on January 3, 1970.
  22. MAME ran a total of 1,508 performances.MAMECLosing
  23. Director Gene Saks went on to direct many Neil Simon plays, winning 3 Tony awards for Best Director.
  24. Choreographer Onna White choreographed over a dozen Broadway shows, including TAKE ME ALONG, IRMA LA DOUCE, 1776, and GIGI.
  25. MAME’s designers were a dream team: scenic design by William and Jean Eckart, costume design by Robert Mackintosh, lighting design by Tharon Musser and orchestrations by Philip J. Lang.
  26. The Original Broadway Cast album was released on June 3rd, 1966.MAMECastAlbum
  27. The supporting cast included Frankie Michaels as Patrick, Jane Connell as Agnes Gooch, and Charles Braswell as Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside.
  28. Willard Waterman, who played Claude Upson in the 1958 film, played Dwight Babcock in the stage musical.
  29. The show was nominated for 7 Tony Awards. Angela Lansbury, Beatrice Arthur, and Frankie Michaels were all Tony winners.
  30. The 1974 film version of MAME featured Lucille Ball in her final film performance. Gene Saks directed and Bea Arthur reprised her stage role as Vera. Ms. Ball’s performance was no hit with the critics (The New Yorker said her voice was “somewhere between a bark and a croak”) and the film did not succeed financially.
  31. When Lansbury took a two-week vacation in August 1967, Celeste Holm took over the title role, to rave reviews. (She went on to lead the national tour.)Celestemame
  32. Janis Paige was the new Broadway Mame, starting in April 1968…Janis Paige MAME
  33. …followed by Jane Morgan (December 1968)Jane Morgan MAME
  34. …and Ann Miller (May 1969).Ann Miller MAME
  35. When Ann Miller took over as Mame, choreographer Oona White added a tap section to “That’s How Young I Feel.”
  36. Frankie Michaels, who played the young Patrick, was the youngest person to ever win a Tony Award; he was 11 years, 1 month, and 11 days old. (Daisy Eagan, the youngest actress to win a Tony, was a few months older when she won Best Supporting Actress in THE SECRET GARDEN.)
  37. “My Best Girl” was the first song written for the show.
  38. The 1969 West End production starred Ginger Rogers in the title role.Ginger Rogers MAME
  39. Susan Hayward appeared in the Las Vegas production. Ann Sothern, Janet Blair, Elaine Stritch, Edie Adams, Patrice Munsel, Carol Lawrence, Juliet Prowse and Sheila Smith have appeared in stock, regional, or touring productions.

    Elaine Stritch Stritchie Janet Blair MAME

    Elaine Stritch and Janet Blair as Vera and Mame

  40. The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, produced the musical in September 1999, starring Christine Ebersole as Mame.
  41. Christine Baranski headlined the 2006 Kennedy Center production, with Harriet Sansom Harris as Vera and Emily Skinner as Gooch.
  42. In the original Broadway production, Angela Lansbury had 26 costume changes!
  43. Eydie Gormé had a huge success with her recording of “If He Walked into My Life,” for which she received a 1967 Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance.Eydie Gorme MAME
  44. The Muppets recorded one of our favorite renditions of “We Need a Little Christmas”
  45. In 1966, Bobby Darin hit the charts with the title song
  46. Louis Armstrong also released his rendition of “Mame.”
  47. And so did Herb Alpert!
  48. “It’s Today,” Mame’s entrance number, begins with the lyric “Light the candles/Get the ice out/Roll the rug up/It’s today.” An earlier version began with “Pass the peanuts!”

    Mame That's how young I feel

    Angela Lansbury sings “That’s How Young I Feel”

  49. To create what he called “contrapuntal pandemonium” in “The Fox Hunt,” Jerry Herman composed the song using four tape recorders—one of his own and three borrowed from friends.
  50. And finally… Angela and Bea wowed ’em with this amazing performance of “Bosom Buddies” on the 1987 Tony Awards.

Happy Birthday, MAME… you coax the blues right outta the horn!