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
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Deliberately urinating before sex can increase risk of urinary tract infections
Cervical cancer: Charity urges women to post messy lipstick selfies to promote smear tests
Broadmoor financial scandal: The £4m of NHS funds wasted at high-security hospital
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...