'Mame' is back -- as irresistible as ever; Mame. Musical Comedy by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (book) and Jerry Herman (music and lyrics). Based on the book ''Auntie Mame,'' by Patrick Dennis, and the play by Lawrence and Lee. Directed by John Bowab. Starring Angela Lansbury.
New York — If you'll pardon the doggerel - Auntie Mame is a durable dame. And Angela Lansbury is a star who can prove it. Miss Lansbury appeared on Broadway as Mame Dennis Burnside in 1966 when the musical version of Mame's adventures made its bow. She won her first Tony Award for that performance. In the 1970s, she starred in summer productions.
Miss Lansbury knows Mame by heart, loves the dizzy eccentric, and is once more playing her to perfection in the revival of ''Mame'' at the newly named Gershwin Theatre (formerly the Uris). Whatever hard times may have befallen Mame recently on the road, she is still the irresistible life of a slickly catered musical party. She is smashingly outfitted and sumptuously environed. Into her life, and amid the typical crush of a Mame bash, comes 10-year-old Patrick Dennis, the nephew bequeathed to her care by his late father. Mame's ideas of education are not merely unorthodox, they are as kooky as her acquaintances.
''Mame'' pursues a somewhat haphazard course from sketch to sketch and from song to engaging song. Sometimes the rowdy cartoon humor tends more to burlesque than satire. But the high spirits are engaging. The familiar score retains its freshness and melodic gusto with songs like ''Today,'' ''Open the New Window,'' ''We Need a Little Christmas,'' and the title number - that rousing, rising, musical tribute to the Yankee belle who beat out the Deep South fox hunt and rescued the fox from the hunters.
''My Best Girl'' and ''If He Walked Into My Life'' carry the sentimental touch. For comic ditties, Mr. Herman has provided ''Gooch's Song,'' ''Bosom Buddies,'' and ''The Man in the Moon.'' ''Mame'' is old-fashioned but well fashioned.
Miss Lansbury's Mame is upbeat, up tempo, and up front. She gives the irrepressible aunt the kind of sweetness that tempers her giddy and gaudy pizazz. She even has some gently touching moments as Mame's fortunes careen dizzily from riches to poverty and back again. Miss Lansbury is always a compelling presence, whether alone on an empty stage or leading the ensemble in one of the show's several snappy production numbers (Onna White's choreography is re-created by Diana Baffa-Brill).
The cast - several of whose numbers appeared in the original ''Mame'' - includes the inimitable Jane Connell as the unwary Agnes Gooch, Anne Francine as Mame's bibulous bosom buddy from show-biz days, and Willard Waterman as banker Babcock. Young Roshi Handwerger does very nicely as 10-year-old Patrick Dennis, and Byron Nease is personable and vocally strong as his older self. Scott Stewart is a model of Southern chivalry as the Georgia scion to whom Mame is briefly married but who proves, alas, a careless mountaineer by falling off the Matterhorn. An otherwise agreeable supporting performance suffers from the fact that director John Bowab has allowed some strenuous overacting in secondary roles.
Playgoers who can read the minuscule print in the Playbill credits for this handsome revival will discover that ''Mame'' has scenery by Peter Wolf (based on the William and Jean Eckart originals), with lighting by Thomas Skelton and costumes by Robert Mackintosh. Philip J. Lang made the orchestrations, and Jim Coleman is the excellent musical director.
So Mame is back on the town. And the town is the more cheerful for her presence.