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Dame ‘Mame’ seizes stage
Show running through Oct. 23
Alexander Merryman portrays Patrick Dennis in “Mame” during the cast’s dress rehearsal Wednesday night. The show opened Friday. - photo by Autumn McBride

The month of October brings a new costumed dame to the Cumming Playhouse.

Her name is Mame, and she’s quite the show.

Singing, smiling and shimmying in sequins, Mame Dennis follows her creed of living life to the fullest in the Broadway musical “Mame.”

For local actress Kathy Russell, playing the role is a dream come true.

She first saw the show on Broadway in 1966 and knew then that she someday had to play Mame.

“She is somebody that I would like to have as a friend,” Russell said. “She’s very flamboyant and a socialite in New York and has an eclectic group of friends. I know I would love every one of her crazy friends.”

The story changes from the opening party scene, when Mame discovers she has become the guardian of her nephew after her brother’s death. The two develop a close relationship throughout the show.

“Her whole attitude about life changes,” Russell said. “You laugh and cry and you can’t help but get involved in the story because it’s such a magical one.”

She added that audiences likely will leave singing or humming the tunes, written by popular composer Jerry Herman.

The musical at the playhouse will be the first for a new theater company that calls the venue home.

Director Jeff McKerley said Bozarts Theater Company chose to debut with a musical since such shows are an American staple.

“They’re so ingrained in what we love as a society,” he said.

By keeping a smaller cast of 15, instead of the proposed 44, the company can also showcase its actors’ talents, he said.

McKerley, an acclaimed professional Atlanta actor, is helping the group get off the ground by directing the first show, something producer and friend Jerry Harlow said was such a “privilege” for this community.

McKerley, who also choreographed the show, has directed “Mame” once before. Though the songs are popular, he said he most enjoys the comedic script.

The play does include some adult themes and language, but would likely be appropriate for most audiences.

“It’s got a good message about acceptance and living life to its fullest,” McKerley said. “Life is too short sometimes. You’ve got to just go out there and seize it.”