"Mack & Mabel"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Michael Ball is the king of musical theatre and shows it here playing Mack Sennett, silent movie producer. He is at first unrecognisable as he is still carrying some weight around his face but that does not disguise that wonderful voice he has. Powerful, tender with his rich tonal qualities, he wraps his tonsils around some lovely songs in this show; the most well known being "I Won't Send Roses"
It's the true story of Sennett who discovers Mabel Normand, played by Rebecca LaChance, and makes her a star of the silent movies. He eventually falls in love with her and an "arrangement" develops.When she wants more artist integrity by making more than a two reel movie, Sennett drives her away into the arms of his rival, William Desmond Taylor (Mark Inscoe), who splashes Mabel over the newspapers with his movies. Sennett lures her back with the promise of a "serious" film but when this doesn't materialise after three weeks, she goes back to Taylor and her drink and drug lifestyle.
Once again Sennett lures her back with promises of making the film she wants to make, "Molly", but before this can be done Mabel dies suddenly, leaving Sennett surviving on his celluloid memories.
A supporting cast of very strong actors with strong voices include a band of actors with a whole load of theatrical credentials including Gunner Cauthery (Frank), Timothy Quinlan (Mr Kessell), Rolf Saxon (Mr Baumann) and Jack Edwards (Fatty).
There are some wonderful dance routines here with some classy choreography, not least the tap routine which is straight out of 1930's Hollywood. this features the very talented Anna-Jane Casey, who has a wonderful voice and great tap technique. the song being "Tap Your Troubles Away".
Amazingly tight ensemble work with some lovely hand control end lines which really show off the upper body choreography rather nicely providing a very classy routine, not just in the tap scenes but throughout.A great job done by choreographer Stephen Mear.
The sets were amazing and you have to see how they get a full train and carriages as well as an ocean liner to be on stage. Bringing the old Hollywood magic to life on stage with this big production. Robert Jones is the set designer and also responsible fro the beautiful costumes as well.
A live orchestra completes the whole lush feel of the production and with their position, they complimented the actors perfectly. Another job well thought out and designed by Paul Groothuis.
This is based on a true story and while it may look good on the annuls of Hollywood silver screen literature, I just found the story to be not as strong as it either could be or as strong as other Hollywood behind the scenes romances. It was a good story, just not a great one and the final section, where Mabel died just seemed to be there and then end. No build up, it seemed as if they had run out of an idea to wind the show down and therefore just announced her death and that was it. The End.
Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing Michael Ball do what he does best, and he is a very convincing actor. He made me believe that i was watching Mack Sennett and not Michael Ball playing a part, but this really wasn't the strongest vehicle for his immense musical talents.
Well worth seeing though just for the legendary Mr Ball and the glitz and glamour spectacle. "Mack & Mabel" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 November 2016.