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Broadway Rose's new musical, 'Adrift in Macao,' adds laughs to film noir



BROADWAY ROSE: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Pam Mahon's Lureena and Michael Morrow Hammack's Mitch - they're seated at the center - and the rest of the Adrift in Macao cast are trying to leave their dark pasts behind in Broadway Roses new send-up of film noir.Broadway Rose’s next musical, “Adrift in Macao,” is a parody of film noir movies, and probably no one typifies a film noir character better than Pam Mahon — she plays the sultry and slinky nightclub chanteuse Lureena who sings for her supper in a 1952 nightclub in China.

This is hardly Mahon’s first Broadway Rose show — she originally appeared 20 years ago in its 1995 production of “Broadway Magic” — but one could say Mahon has been preparing for the role of Lureena her whole life, starting with ballet lessons at age 4.

“In fifth grade, I played Gretel in ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and as I was pushing the witch into the oven, I was perhaps a bit too enthusiastic and actually pushed her off the stage,” Mahon said, recalling that she trained her voice in both church and high school choirs. “Every summer, my parents appeared in shows in the local Gilbert & Sullivan Festival. My dad played all the big roles, the Mikado, the Pirate King, Ruddigore, and mom sang in the chorus.”

Despite being immersed in music, Mahon decided she didn’t want to apply to the famed Juilliard School “because I think I had ‘small-town-itis,’ she said. She decided instead to head west and join a friend at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she earned bachelor of arts and master’s degrees in voice performance.

“One summer, they held a Gilbert & Sullivan Festival there and I followed in the footsteps of my parents and was cast as Patience in ‘Patience,’” Mahon said, recalling that the show was directed by Sir John Reed, a famed British actor who performed in Gilbert and Sullivan productions for decades before turning to direction in Britain and the U.S. “He was phenomenal, and to be directed by him was lovely.”

After getting her master’s degree, Mahon hung around Boulder, worked a day job and looked for an apprenticeship with an opera company. Lo and behold, Portland Opera had an apprenticeship position open, and Mahon moved to Portland in 1994 and never left.

“The great Northwest won me over,” she said.BROADWAY ROSE: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Pam Mahon's Lureena, the slinkily dressed dame, and Michael Morrow Hammack's Mitch, the American framed for murder, are at the center of Broadway Roses new production of Adrift in Macao.

Mahon calls her work at Portland Opera a “great experience,” adding, “One of my passions is arts education outreach, and one of our projects was taking a mini-version of an opera like ‘The Magic Flute’ around the state and performing for school kids.”

Mahon continued her non-theater work until she was cast in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” which ran for two years and taught her a lot about improv (she played Donna, one of the bridesmaids, and also served as Tina’s understudy).

In 2001, Mahon was cast in “Gypsy” at Portland Center Stage, but the lead actor got stranded in New York when all airplanes were grounded after the 9/11 attacks.

“The show must go on, and it did,” Mahon said. “We all made it through, but it was quite an experience.”

In 2002, Mahon gave birth to her son Connor, “and as soon as he could hang out, he was backstage,” she said. “I would set him up with his computer or a book. He was a great little trouper, and now he is a percussionist and budding guitarist. Having a child changes your priorities, but your passion for the theater can’t be denied.”

Over the last dozen years, Mahon has juggled motherhood, stage roles, day jobs and part-time gigs, including working as the walk-on entertainment on the Queen of the West and Empress of the North, small ships that cruise the Columbia River.

“I’m the queen of organization, so often, my jobs have been office manager or executive assistant,” Mahon said.

But one of her favorite “consistent part-time” jobs is providing education outreach with the Oregon Symphony.

“Four times a year, we go into schools and introduce elementary kids to the various sections of the orchestra,” Mahon said. “We also do Young People’s Concerts where kids are bused to the (Arlene) Schnitzer Concert Hall and the whole orchestra comes in.”

Mahon serves as the narrator and explains what to listen for at the Young People’s Concerts.

“This is one of the greatest jobs — to sit on the stage while they play, and the music washes over you like a wave,” she said. “We do three other concerts a year, specifically for kids on Sundays, and I play some zany characters, including a pirate ilking no less.”

And when Mahon has some spare time, she plays characters at Bridgeport Village, walking around as Mrs. Claus or Maleficent.

Between raising her son, working at her day jobs and her part-time gigs, Mahon usually limits herself to about two shows per year.

“As much as I’m passionate about music and theater, you need balance — to walk and read a book and exercise,” she said.

Mahon couldn’t attend the Broadway Rose general auditions this year, so she got the “Macao” role “the old-fashioned way — I auditioned for it. I’m so tickled to be here doing this show. It’s going to be great.”

The “Adrift in Macao" preview performance is set for Thursday, with opening night on Friday; performances continue through Oct. 25. Evening performances are Thursday through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sundays and the following Saturdays: Oct. 3, 10, 17 and 24. Performance are held at the New Stage located at 12850 S.W. Grant Ave., Tigard. Tickets prices start at $30 for adults, with discounts available for groups 4nd youth. For a full listing of show performances or to order tickets, visit broadwayrose.org or call the box office at 503-620-5262.

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