1-10 October 2015
Reviewed by Linda Curtain
I was delighted to have the chance to attend the Theatre Royal Plymouth last evening to review the stage musical Mack & Mabel. The revival of Jerry Herman’s 1974 musical sees well known actor and singer Michael Ball returning to Plymouth – where he attended Plymouth College as a student – in the leading role of Mack Sennett. Based on the turbulent real life romance between silent movie producer Mack Sennett and actress Mabel Normand, I was keen to see how Michael would fit into the role.
On arriving at the theatre with my granddaughter, I had no problem parking in the nearby car park and we quickly located the theatre box office to collect our tickets. As always, the theatre was bright and bustling with many people enjoying a pre-show drink in the foyer cafe and bar area.
Once we were settled into our seats, we were soon being entertained by the orchestra – who were raised on a staging above the main stage. On hearing the Mack & Mabel overture I am sure I was not alone in thinking about Torvill & Dean’s ice dance to this music!! The opening scene – Movies were Movies – where Sennett was seen reflecting on his life as a silent movie producer, then continued to set the standard for the evening.
With Michael Ball confidently taking the lead role of Mack Sennett and Rebecca La Chance portraying Mabel Normand, the story of their relationship unfolded on the stage. Michael easily captured Sennett’s obsessive devotion to Mabel, but with the demands of his movie career Mabel soon has to take second place in his affections. When a rival producer starts giving her the attention she desires, we quickly see her life spiralling out of control with addiction to drugs and alcohol resulting in an early death at the age of thirty eight.
The first half was very upbeat with excellent comedy routines – very in keeping with the silent movie era. The second half focussed more on the decline of Mabel with Rebecca La Chance acting brilliantly through many emotional scenes.
Musically, Michael Ball really excelled with his fantastic clear voice tackling the songs with ease. He was a surprisingly nimble and energetic dancer as well! Another main character who needs a mention is Anna-Jane Casey who plays hoofer Lottie Ames. Her dance routines were amazing.
With great energetic dance quality and clear, lively songs this show certainly has the feel good factor. The costumes were brilliant and the clever use of the background projections added to the silent movie content. Numerous production numbers – from the tap routine of ‘Tap your Troubles Away’ to the slapstick comedy of the Keystone Cops – showed the wonderful choreography of Stephen Mear and the versatility of the company. Jonathan Church, as director of the musical, has certainly put together all the necessary elements for a great production – superb dancing, wonderful ballads, powerful presentation and a great all round cast.
I feel a special mention should be made here to two actors who have this week moved from their understudy roles to play main characters following a tragic event earlier in the week. Joseph Prouse took on the role of Mr. Baumann with confidence and Sam Stones took on the role of Freddie with ease. I am sure Alex Giannini would be very proud of you both as well as of the rest of the company at this difficult time.
What a fantastic show again at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
A well-deserved 5 star rating.
Tickets cost from £21.50 to £52.50 (booking fees may apply).
Mack & Mabel is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 10 October 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222