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Not my favourite show – although the music is always a plus, but the lib leaves much to be desired.

This version was traditional and kept the feel of the era extremely well, with good costumes, and lighting.  I loved Mabel and Lottie’s wigs, they both looked really good and natural.

I thought the set worked very well – and involved the minimum of long changes – which is essential for Mack & Mabel – as it is a show where the scenes are continually changing.  The concept of the trolley being used on stage right, then being reversed to show the back of the train on stage left, was excellent.  The way the stage was cleared from the Orchid Room for the ‘Hundreds of Girls’ number was very good – very precise and without any intrusion into the flow of dialogue or music.

The band gave us a very tuneful overture – and usually I would like to see the scene being set during an overture, as they are sometimes long and not very interesting, this particular one was well-played, fast and exciting, so didn’t need any enhancement.  There were a couple of places where the underscore was a little too enthusiastic, difficult to contain I know with such fun music, but it detracted from what was being said – which needed to be heard.

The start was a little slow and diffident from Terry Casserley as Mack.  Musically, I felt that there were some very nice nuances in parts, I would have preferred to have seen him ‘talk’ singing so that he could really express the feeling in the words, which were rather lost.  

Babette Smith gave us a lovely Mabel – lighting up the stage with her confidence and characterisation.  I liked the expression in her songs, which gave lovely meaning to the words, and she moved well.  ‘Time Heals Everything’ was done beautifully.

Lottie was played by Mariam Gabella – and again this was a really lovely portrayal – showing us a really quirky nature.   Mariam acted her part so well, and gave every impression of being an experienced tap dancer in the ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’ number.  What she lacked in finesse she made up for in sheer energy and joie de vivre – which gave the number the edge it needed.

Choreography was good throughout, and I particularly liked small touches such as the inverted ‘v’ shape at the end of ‘Look What Happened to Mabel’ – however I would have liked o have seen more grouping and less straight lines in some of the numbers.

I liked Tony Harvey and Ian Parker as Bauman and Kessel , they were very full on and typical of backers of that period.  Geraint Whalley as ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle got the essence of the character well.

I was very pleased to see how much Chris Armitt has improved vocally  – he sang the part of ‘Frank’ extremely well, and gave him a very nicely rounded character.  

Angie Yeates, Bruno Basset, Paul Whiteman and Paolo Passi in the smaller principal roles gave us good portrayals that helped the feel of the piece generally.

In Scene 7 – I felt the start of ‘Hundreds of Girls’ was a missed opportunity – the stage looked very bare, it needed some movement to create the excitement and expectation of the girls coming on, and then it needed more shape and energy overall.  I liked Act 2 Scene 2 – it was lively and the Keystone Cops were fun.

So, although I was not enamoured with the show as such – I thought that in the main the cast did well, to bring a strange show some very good moments.  Babette and Mariam were undoubtedly the stars, giving us warmth, fun and energy plus well-sung and excellent characters.  Of the men I thought that Chris Armitt stood out for me with confidence and showmanship in what he did.

Nova Horley

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company

MACK & MABEL”  date: 5th - 10TH March 2012

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director & Choreographer:  Gillianne Morris-Monk

MD: Dan Cowtan


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