Mame Meets Her Match in Actress Chevy Anz

The larger-than-life character in the novel by Patrick Dennis, loosely based upon his own aunt, “Mame” embodies the free-spirited Roaring Twenties with all its glamour, social changes, bohemian lifestyles, and educational experimentation. The eccentric title character dominates each scene with her passion, wit, and sometimes ribald actions.
In the Bijou Theater’s pleasurable production, “Mame” has met her match in Chevy Anz. From the first moment she stalks onto the stage, she claims it as her own and deftly works the magic that is Mame. Audacious, brazen, yet charmingly demure at moments, this is Mame as we know and love her. Not intimidated by nor inclined to try to fill the shoes which Angela Lansbury and Lucille Ball have worn before her, Anz simply brings her own pair of rhinestone heels and wears them with her own flamboyant style. From her high stepping dance numbers and gutsy vocals to her evocative emotional depths, Anz’s portrayal of Mame is right on the money.
Almost equally as beguiling is Amy Bebout’s sassy Agnes Gooch. Her waif-like looks and crystalline high notes are a delight.
Children are often natural scene stealers and Kiernan Bensey is no exception. He is a pleasure to watch and a trooper to boot! In the Christmas scene young Kiernan had a nosebleed on the stage which was not apparent from where I sat and he never missed a cue during that scene. The only time I saw him miss a beat was in the scene where he changes into older Patrick. Kiernan launched into the wrong verse of the song, but quickly recovered and deftly returned to his lines so quickly I almost missed the hesitation.
Another standout is Dennis Bussell who is the epitome of the fussy, overbearing and sometimes dastardly Mr. Babcock.
The sets were noteworthy and added to play as well as to the ambiance of the historic theater. Kudos to Sandra to Sandra Van Winke-Campbell for her outstanding original paintings.
The rest of the cast is as good or better than one would expect from community theater with only a few exceptions. A couple of the dancers were not as precise as others and Chris Eatherly either missed or mumbled a line or two, but his giggling Ito was enjoyable, nonetheless.
The play incorporates quite a bit of bad language and some adult humor as well as drinking, smoking, and other vices. Not recommended for children under 13 or for people who are easily offended.
On a side note, Knoxville’s historic Bijou theatre is apparently experiencing financial difficulties. In the show program I counted 20 people listed as staff, and noticed at least one actor also serves on the staff. Perhaps the Bijou could save some funds by combining some job descriptions and trimming the staff so more funds could go into the upkeep of this truly beautiful theatre as well as bringing in more fabulous productions like “Mame.”
The Bijou’s production of “Mame” runs through June 11.
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