Review: Mack & Mabel - an unlikely love story

PUBLISHED: 16:05 25 October 2019

Weston Operatic Society will perform Mack & Mabel at the Playhouse. Picture: Colin Tyler

Weston Operatic Society will perform Mack & Mabel at the Playhouse. Picture: Colin Tyler

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Weston Operatic Society (WOS) made a brave choice in performing Broadway spectacular Mack & Mabel for its second production during its 110th anniversary year at the Playhouse this week, but judging by the rapturous audience reaction to the show last night, it was one which has paid dividends.

Weston Operatic Society will perform Mack & Mabel at the Playhouse. Picture: Clare HunterWeston Operatic Society will perform Mack & Mabel at the Playhouse. Picture: Clare Hunter

The group returned to the Weston theatre to tell the tempestuous love story of two icons from Hollywood's silent movie era in the 1920s - director Mack Sennett and actress Mabel Normand.

It was nominated for eight Tony Awards when it played on Broadway but failed to win any, with critics saying 'neither Sennett nor Normand was a particularly lovable character, and their story was darker than that usually found in a musical' but despite only fair reviews the show garnered a cult following.

And in England when it made its debut in Nottingham in 1981 it failed to transfer to the West End and only did so later in 1996 following a rewrite.

But the Weston audience last night lost themselves in the glitz and glamour of the bygone era of American movie-making, played out brilliantly by the drama group, which won five regional awards for last year's production of Cats.

The Jerry Herman score, including I Won't Send Roses, I Wanna Make The World Laugh, and Time Heals Everything, was flawlessly executed by the exceptionally-talented cast who maintained credible American accents throughout the show, even during the songs.

Clare Hunter, who starred in Cats as Jennyanydots, was fabulous as silent movie star Lottie, Simon Duffill was the perfect choice for Mack and Felicity Berry, who played Jemima in Cats, gave a beautiful performance as the creative and flighty Mabel.

All three were faultless, with the chemistry between the two leads mesmerising and completely believable. It could not have been an easy casting either as Mack was a fair bit older than his rising star, who he'd nurtured from being a waitress in a sandwich bar into an in-demand movie star, but the attraction between them was electric.

Hunter was also brilliantly-cast as Mack's sassy lead actress before Mabel usurps her, with a tap-dancing music hall scene headed up by her bringing all the showy sequinned razzmatazz so beloved of the time.

In fact the choreography was breathtaking throughout, my favourite scene being the filming of one of Mack's first Keystone Cop movies where the stage was filled with the signature blue bobby uniforms all moving in perfect synch to portray the director's trademark slapstick humour.

The action is played out with footage from the actual films running above the actors heads which is a clever and moving touch.

Mack & Mabel follows hot on the heels of WOS's April run of Hot Mikado.

It will be at the Playhouse, in High Street, until tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.30pm, with an additional matinee performance tomorrow at 2.30pm.

Tickets, priced £17-18, are available at www.theplayhouse.co.uk or on 01934 645544

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