Mack & Mabel Review
29th January - 2nd February 2008
Gala Theatre, Durham
THIS musical is based on the early history of the silent movie industry, and the love story between director Mack Stennett and his star, Mabel Normand.
The show has been around since 1972, and I have seen it many times. However, Durham Musical Theatre Company was privileged to present the UK amateur première of the 2002 version, revised by Francine Pascal, and it was just great in every respect.
First came a cracking overture by a very good orchestra, with Jerry Herman's score splendidly directed by Paul Wood, and lovely dancing, well choreographed by Kathleen Knox and Janet Dixon. It was great to see tap introduced and even ballet en pointe - most unusual these days.
Sarah Jackson made a delightful Lottie. It was unbelievably her first role, making one certain we will see a great deal more of this young performer in future.
Graham Walton, as Fatty Arbuckle, gained most of the laughs, particularly in the Keystone Cops and custard pie-throwing scenes.
The strength of this production, directed by Fred Wharton, was in its covering of the minor roles.
However, the show depends on the strength of the leads, and Delia McNally, small in figure, huge in voice and projection, gave a very polished, sincere and totally credible performance as Mabel, while Anthony Smith was electric in style, personality and conviction - I have nothing but praise and admiration for the way he carried off the part of Mack.
In every aspect, this was a night of great theatre. The updated version is so very refreshing, concentrating as it does on a much kinder Mack.
The City of Durham should be proud of this excellent company, celebrating its 100th year, which I wish all success in the future.
by Michael Hinks, president of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association published in the Durham Times 8th February 2008
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