Check out pretty much any interview with Louise Pitre over the last year or two, and you'll invariably find her mentioning this: she would love - love - to play Mame.
It's little wonder. The title character in "Mame" is one of the biggest, juiciest leading roles for a woman in musical theater. Auntie Mame is a buoyant, larger-than-life figure whose signature line is "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."
The show, which debuted in 1966 and requires a big cast and a significant budget, hasn't been revived often.
Goodspeed Musicals, though, is doing the honors now with Pitre in the title role.
Pitre has been called Canada's "first lady of musical theater," but American audiences know her best for starring as Donna in "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway. She earned a 2002 Tony nomination for that performance. (She also starred in "Mamma Mia!" in Toronto and in its United States national tour.) She says some people think she does pop musicals because that's their sole reference.
Her rich list of credits belies that notion. She played Fantine in "Les Miserables" in Toronto, Montreal and Paris. She starred as Edith Piaf in three productions of "Piaf."
And "Mame," of course, gives American audiences a glorious chance to see what Pitre really can do beyond "Mamma Mia!"
Pitre has talked about wanting to play Mame:
"Out of the blue, I get a call from my agent saying, 'I got a call from the Goodspeed Opera House. Would you be interested in doing "Mame"?' I said, 'Are you kidding me??!!' He said, 'Does that mean 'yes or no?' 'Yeah!!!!! Yeah! Are you crazy?' I just wrote to him - he sent me a note saying, 'How's it going?' I wrote back. His reply was, 'I'm so happy you're so happy.' It's so emotional for me - you have no idea what a gift this is. I feel like I've been working my life for this. I have. And now I know what to do."
Pitre feels a real kinship with the character of Mame:
"She's real close to me. I am very much one of those full-out, I either love it or I hate it kind of person. Laugh a lot. I love going for it. Impulsive. And if the wine's good, I'm not one of those who believes in one glass and that's it. Oh, come on, screw that! Life's too short. I love to cook, I love clothes, all those sensory things - anything is exciting when it's good, whether it's a good burger or a fine beef bourguignon. I run the gamut, you know? Mame is very much like that, too. Larger than life but also loving life. ... Abandon - that's my key word for this character, and it's my key word in life, too, and it's my key word in performing."
As Mame, Pitre wears 17 stunning costumes designed by Gregg Barnes:
"I'm a clothes person. I have a ton of clothes, and they matter to me a lot. I remember what I wore when I was a kid, at every occasion. ... I've cried many times during my fittings. It's just overwhelming to me. This is like the ultimate frickin' little-girl Barbie dream - that's not even good enough, I don't know what to call it. ... I remember thinking when I dressed my Barbie in that ballgown - I dreamed maybe someday I'd wear something like that. And here I am. I mean, I've worn nice things in shows before, but not like this. And certainly not 17 of them, each one more glorious than the other one."
For Pitre, the "Mame" score, which was written by Jerry Herman in the mid-1960s, is a pleasure to perform:
"Back then, they wrote reasonably for singers. They don't ask you to be pushing out high C, D, Es in full voice. It's so ridiculous. I can be just as emotional on a B-flat as I can a fourth above it. That makes me crazy. I've done so many shows and worked with so many people with vocal problems. We're screeching at the top of our ranges at the extremes all the time. Why? These rock 'n' roll shows - God knows I did some of those, I just don't want to do those anymore. ... I would get through it anyway, but it's not fun. It's not enjoyable. Because you're constantly worried about it. Because you know you're pushing it too hard (at) eight times a week."