MACK & MABEL
book by Michael Stewart revised by Francine Pascal music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 5 September.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 30 Jul, 5, 13, 19, 27 Aug, 2 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio-described 7 Aug, 8 Aug 2.30pm, 28 Aug, 29 Aug 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 13 Aug 7.30pm.
Captioned 5 Sept 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
then Tour 1 Oct-6 Dec 2015.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 July.
It’s not the factual truth, it leaves areas of its story unexplored but it’s not to be missed.
This musical’s story is pure Hollywood land. As the book tells it, no-one would know Mabel Normand had worked in films and met director Mack Sennett while working for leading director D W Griffith. She did not just walk (as here) onto a set to deliver a sandwich and walk off to become a star. This apparent victim of circumstances was also a film director, and co-star/co-director with Charlie Chaplin.
But there’s no history like show-history, re-arranged for desired effects. Mack and Mabel’s been re-arranged itself since premiering as a 1974 floperoo. Failure, though, has no place in the work of Jonathan Church, triumphant in his time as Chichester’s Artistic Director (alas, he leaves next year). His revival continues the pattern of success.
Amid the uplifting showbiz contributions of Chichester regular, choreographer Stephen Mear, and musical director Robert Scott’s reeds and brass dominated band atop the stage, Church trusts audiences to take the predominantly downbeat setting, enlivened by early film apparatus, busy movement and occasional trompe-l’œil 3D effect projections of train or liner.
The 1970s kerfuffle focused on the downbeat ending, but we’re ready for such stuff nowadays. Carousel had pulled-off the same trick, smiling amid tears, even if the ending here is more ironic. For Mack’s insistence on a happy ending contrasts the sadness his compulsion to make everything comic brings about.
Michael Ball’s Sennett is victim of his own comic compulsion, while Rebecca LaChance is a vivacious Mabel, restrained only by a musical more interested in Sennett, making her mostly reactive to his energy and ideas.
The big show pieces are his once-fashionable bathing belles and his lasting gift to film, the Keystone Cops. Respectively, they provide glamour and (thanks to specialist direction by Spymonkey regulars Toby Park and Aitor Bassauri) humour, while Anna-Jane Casey’s Lottie reboots the show late on, leading an ensemble paean to tap-dancing.
Robert Jones’ grey, ghostly studio scenery fits the story’s fluidity and sadness, while glimpses of Normand’s films add flickering life to her appeal, and make for an emotional knock-out when repeated, her celluloid vivacity counterpointing the regret embodied in Ball’s Sennett.
Eddie/Freddie: Joseph Prouse.
Mack Sennett: Michael Ball.
Lottie Ames: Anna-Jane Casey.
Ella: Rebecca Louis.
Andy: Andrew Waldron.
Fatty: Jack Edwards.
Frank Wyman: Gunnar Cauthery.
Mabel Normand: Rebecca LaChance.
Writer: Ashley Andrews.
Mr Baumann: Alex Giannini.
Mr Kessel: Timothy Quinlan.
Iris: Michelle Francis.
William Desmond Taylor: Mark Inscoe.
Phyllis Foster: Emily Shaw.
Serge: Adam Denman.
Purser: Sam Stones.
Ensemble: Nicole Deon, Emily Langham, Jenny Legg, Joshua Lovell, Grace McKee, Rohan Richards, Zara Warren, Libby Watts.
Director: Jonathan Church.
Designer: Robert Jones.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Musical Director: Robert Scott.
Orchestrators: Philip J Lang, Larry Blank.
Physical comedy: Toby Park, Aitor Bassauri for Spymonkey.
Projections: Jon Driscoll.
Choreographer: Stephen Mear.
Voice/Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Assistant director: Jonathan O’Boyle.
Associate designer: Alistair Turner.
Assistant designer: Kim Alwyn Botting.
Associate lighting: James Smith.
Associate sound: Ken Hampton.
Assistant musical director: Brendan McCormack.
Associate projections: Gemma Carrington.
Assistant choreographer: Jo Morris.
1-10 Oct Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 8 Oct 2.30pm Audio-described 8 Oct 2.30pm Theatre Royal Plymouth (The Lyric) 01752 267222 www.theatreroyal.com
12-24 Oct Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Opera House Manchester 0844 871 3018 www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester
27 Oct-7 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Bord Gáis Energy Theatre Dublin 0818 709377 0844 847 2455 (from UK) www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie
10-21 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Edinburgh Playhouse 0844 871 3014 www.atgtickets.com/venues/edinburghplayhouse
23-28 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed 2pm; Sat 2.30pm BSL Signed Wed 7.30pm Theatre Royal Nottingham 0115 989 5555 www.trch.co.uk
1-6 Dec Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat, Sun 2.30pm Audio-described Sat 2.30pm; BSL Signed Fri 7.30pm; Captioned Wed Wales Millennium Centre (Donald Gordon Theatre) Cardiff 029 2063 6464 www.wmc.org.uk