For those familiar with this quirky musical, Mack and Mabel has somewhat of a reputation for being a great Broadway flop. Since its opening in 1974, the show has had a string of mixed reviews and never really took flight.
It tells the turbulent story of silent movie director Mack Sennett and silver screen star Mabel Normand, and attempts to bring to life all of the glitz, glamour, comedy and drama of the golden age of Hollywood.
It opens on Sennett as an old man, galumphing his way into his old studio. He begins to reminisce on the past, and thus we’re taken back in time on a journey through his memories. After a clever scene change and a rapid costume switch, young Mack stands in the middle of his bustling Brooklyn studio, about to meet the woman who would change his world.
Director Trevor Ashely has a commendable go at trying to make this shaky musical fly. It’s probably the most gentle hand we’ve seen Ashley play, because at its core, this musical is about two lovers, and in amongst all the glitter and tap shoes, it is obvious that Ashley has recognised that.
Alongside Ashely is choreographer Cameron Mitchell, whose clever work livens up the small Hayes Theatre space like no other. Visually, the show is a delight. Angela White’s costumes and Lauren Peters’ set perfectly evoke that magical world of old-school film sets, and ingenious projection on the back wall makes for some interesting vignettes. The band, under Bev Kennedy’s musical direction, make you believe they are double their size and play Jerry Herman’s score with spectacular aplomb.
Leading the cast admirably in the title roles are Scott Irwin and Angelique Cassimatis. Irwin is charismatic and aloof as Mack, and his wonderfully rich voice certainly doesn’t need amplifying in the small space. His ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ is particularly memorable. Cassimatis is an absolute pocket rocket on that stage, with a killer voice and dancing skills to boot. Unsurprisingly, she makes what could have (and has) been a dull role shine. Her ‘Wherever He Ain’t’ is sublime.
The ensemble is strong and hardworking, but does have few weak links. Deone Zanotto on the other hand is anything but. Channeling Caroline O’Connor, Zanotto sashays, sings and swirls her way effortlessly around the stage as Lottie Aimes.
When all is said and done, it’s another good show for the Hayes Theatre Co. It may be a little rough around the edges and in need of a polish in one or two places, but there’s tap dancing and sparkles, and everyone gets a pie in their face. What more do you want?
Playing at the Hayes Theatre until Sunday December 18th.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now