NORTH TONAWANDA —
Whether discussing philandering military men or the wizardry of modern appliances, Mama still carries the edge that made her so beloved decades ago. Harper said that’s a big part of the character’s charm.
“She’s really my chance to say all the things I think most people are thinking but they don’t talk about because they’re not PC,” said Lawrence, who compared the character’s blunt nature to that of Archie Bunker from “All in the Family.” “Everybody has a Mama in their family. Everybody knows how outrageous they could be.”
The character wasn’t even written for Lawrence. Burnett was supposed to play the part in a 1974 sketch about crotchety in-laws. But Burnett passed the part on to Lawrence — who joined the show at age 18 after writing to its eponymous star as a high school senior — and she’s never been able to keep the wig off.
“People will stop me all the time and ask where’s Mama, like she should be right there next to me,” she said. “Everybody loves her so much that sometimes I feel like I could fall off the face of the Earth and nobody would miss me as long as she was there.”
Not that she’s complaining, though. After all, most writers create a character and see it discarded after a single performance. So one that generates college students born 15 years after it was created to laud it is a significant achievement, she said.
And Mama will finally gain new life on home video. “Mama’s Family” is set to debut on DVD later this year, 23 years after the show was canceled (pirated copies can be had on the Internet, but Lawrence said a copy she purchased was of horrendous quality).
As for the show, Lawrence has no intentions of reducing its year-round touring schedule. With every town she visits, she said she only adds to Mama’s family.
“You’re not really going out there alone. You’re going out there with a bunch of fans, and it feels like a bunch of friends.”
Contact Paul Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: "Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show"
• WHEN: 2 and 8 p.m. July 25
• WHERE: Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda
• MORE INFORMATION: Call 692-2413 or visit www.rivieratheatre.org.