I saw her. I was 13, a year before I would start attending Saturday-morning acting classes in Manhattan, followed each week by a matinee, so I hadn't developed the "sophistication" I had as a 14-year-old seeing Company over and over again. I wouldn't know that I had missed something special by not seeing Lansbury until three years later, after Follies and A Little Night Music were also my obsessions and the recording of the Sondheim tribute with the Scrabble cover came out. The minute I heard Lansbury sing the words "Everyone hates me. Yes. Yes" at the beginning of "Me and My Town," I knew I had missed possibly the performance of a lifetime. Nevertheless, at the time, Ann Miller was 100 percent star. She came out on stage, the audience burst into applause, and she proceeded to be everything an Auntie Mame should be. And then, in the second act, after singing "That's How Young I Feel," she started to tap. And tap. And TAP. And the audience enjoyed it, it seemed to my 13-year-old unsophisticated self, more than any of the other musical numbers in the show. I later worked with Onna White, the legendary choreographer of Mame and The Music Man and the movie of Oliver. She said that, of course, there HAD to be a tap number for Ann Miller, or the audience would go home disappointed. Everyone, including Jerry Herman and Gene Saks and Lawrence and Lee agreed on that. "Young I Feel" provided the perfect excuse for a character who was not a dancer to suddenly become a virtuoso dancer--a tap dance could show us exactly how young Mame felt--and Onna and Ann worked together on a typical Ann Miller tap routine that would build to a huge hand from audience. Onna didn't seem to mind at all that the tap was my strongest memory of the show. As a matter of fact, she loved it. (But that was Onna.) The other thing I remember about that day is that my uncle Sidney bought tickets for us, I think, for my cousin Linda's birthday. He took us to lunch at the Automat and told us to enjoy it, because they'd all be gone soon. And they were.
© 2017 Wisdom Digital Media