Theatre Mack and Mabel Piccadilly Theatre, London
`For all that its neglect has become a cause celebre, Mack and Mabel administers only intermittent pleasure jabs'
Thursday 09 November 1995
McGillin possesses a voice of terrific unforced range and power, if with little of the sort of personality and compelling oddness that elevates the singing of, say, Mandy Patinkin. To give meaning, though, to the story of the musical - which recounts how Sennett made a comedy star and bed- partner of a simple, New York deli hash-slinger, Mabel Normand, only to drive her to drugs and the arms of a pretentious rival through his career- driven blindness to her craving for love and professional respect - you need a performer who can suggest the character's dogmatic showman's coarseness as well as the reluctant sensitivity from which he is constantly on the run. You believe McGillin's Mack implicitly when he warbles, "I Won't Send Roses", that considerate, bittersweet warning to Mabel that he's too tunnel-visioned for a relationship, but when he sings of "Getting a bang / Out of lemon meringue / In the face" you feel like putting the claim to a practical test.
Though her make-up sometimes makes her look like the long-lost love child of Lily Savage, Caroline O'Connor has a great gutsy appeal as Mabel, an armour-plated, leather-tongued cartoon waif whose rip-roaring rendition of "Wherever He Ain't" is like two ritzily gloved fingers (or maybe one, given the country) shoved up in the air. For all, however, that its neglect has become a cause celebre among the buffs, Mack and Mabel administers only intermittent pleasure-jabs. Too many of the songs present you with the sound of Herman ripping himself off. The perky strut in "Look What Happened to Mabel" recalls the perky strut in "Elegance" from Hello Dolly!; and the chorus's hand-waggling, high-kicking climax to Mabel's return- to-her-old-studio number is a resounding re-treat of "Mame". Once again, Herman's thumbprint as a lyricist (more contractions than a woman in labour) can be seen in "From now on this pile of flesh'll / Be considered something special". A New Statesman parody (sung to the tune of "Mame") might run thus: "You can bet that Jerry Herman'll / Repeat that rhyme until it's terminal / We think you're just sensational / Jerry."
Paul Kerryson's staging has pizzazz, efficiency and the right kind of vulgarity, as it whisks you through the early part of the century from Brooklyn to the palm trees of Hollywood by train and ocean liner and through flashbacks. The wit of the silent-movie pastiches is a mite dismal, though (Mack and Mabel is no Singin' In the Rain), and Michael Smuin's humour- starved choreography is adamantly unsurprising (it's Kathryn Evans's singing that lights up "Tap Your Troubles Away"). Overall, quite good fun, but, to adapt the title of the best song: I Won't Throw Roses.
n Booking: 0171-369 1734
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Life & Style blogs
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Police probed over earlier allegations as paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
£500 - £550 per day: Cornwallis Elt : Business Analyst Target Operating Mod...
£10 - £12 per hour: Pro-Recruitment Group: An opportunity has arisen within th...
Flexible, Competitive, Weekly.: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobRandstad ...
£9600 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are...