It’s a musical that rarely receives a staging. The original Broadway show in 1974 closed after eight weeks. A West End revival in 2006 ran only for 3 months. And yet it’s a show packed with memorable musical numbers courtesy of Jerry Herman, and tells a true and tragic love story, set against the evolution of the Hollywood movie machine.
Alex Knox sings out of his skin to deliver a hardnosed, workaholic, no-emotion Mack Sennett, showing huge range and stamina tackling a part that is way beyond his years. He’s a dapper lead in the opener, ‘Movies were Movies’ and ‘I Want to Make the World Laugh’ but it’s a tall order to expect him to exude the charisma and chutzpah of the self-obsessed workaholic originally portrayed by Robert Preston.
Jessamy Stoddart’s Mabel knocks out a sweet slow paced ‘Look What Happened to Mabel’, a feisty ‘Wherever He Ain’t’ and a forlorn ‘Time Heals Everything’ showing lots of promise, but she’s yet to find a way to emanate the star quality essential to Mabel or show the starlet mature into a siren.
Kitty Murdoch deserves special mention for her spirited Lottie and full marks to the ensemble for their brilliant singing, acting and dancing and for making minimal set and props work, conjuring the world of the musical with sheer conviction and visible relish. This is a big, brash Broadway musical, set in a bygone age, on adult themes and this youth company have done a cracking job. Expect to see many of them graduate to the West End stage in due course.
Mack & Mabel is performed tonight at 7.30pm at Greenwich Theatre. Tickets £12-20.
Do you remember Torvill and Dean ice dancing to the overture from Mack and Mabel? That’ll be where you know the tunes from.
*the author is a mad fan of the Mack & Mabel music – this is a quote from ‘I Won’t Send Roses’.