Regional Reviews: Seattle
Mack and Mabel
It will delight, enthrall, and introduce you to one of the best musical scores ever written by Jerry Herman, who also wrote the lyrics. What was expected to be a hit in '74 was not. Although earning eight Tony nominations (though, oddly, no nod for Herman), it won none. But a fine original Broadway cast album remains available. The problem was with the book, an uneasy mixture of fact and fantasy by Michael Stewart, later revised by the late author's sister Francine Pascal. But director-impresario David-Edward Hughes brings together a dynamic triple-threat cast singing, dancing, and acting with aplomb. Hughes draws you in at the start and balances the film and stage imagery. And he does it seamlessly with a cohesive blending of digital imagery (projection designs by James Spear) and loosing true talent to the stage.
I loved seeing the slapstick comedies and the photos of the real Mack Sennett Studios back in the day. This staged reading goes beyond (occasional books in hand excepted) the expected, with excellent and proficient musical direction by Kim Douglass and a tight choral sound by the ensemble. Elizabeth Posluns' cute and flashy choreography delights. The cast is simply yet well costumed and each cast member is given a moment to shine.
Mack and Mabel is probably a musical you've heard of, but have never seen. It is Jerry Herman's favorite of his musicals and the saddest failure of his career, having limped through only 66 performances at the Majestic Theatre in 1974. The story is dark, and there are many theories as to why the original production was not successful. Some surmise that the age difference between leads Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston was not believable. Rest assured the chemistry between Caitlin Frances as Mabel and Marcus Wolland as Mack is real and palatable. Wolland offers a deeply layered performance as a man who is not instantly likable. He has a large range and delivers blow-hard demands and tender ballads effectively. Frances delivers a searing "Time Heals Everything" late in the performance which seals the deal. She delivers my favorite lyric in "If he's going south, I'm going north. If he's going back, I'm going forth. Wherever he ain't." I also like how Herman rhymes "flickers" (what they called silent movies back then) with "snickers." Stealing every scene is Loretta Deranleau Howard who knows her audience and how to play to just the right amount of comedic relief in a scene. Her huge, clarion voice reaches to the rafters in her number "Tap Your Troubles Away." And, yes, the cast does a most admirable tap number.
Hughes (a veteran Seattle musicals in concert specialist) has reunited with his favorite Seattle talents. Besides Wolland and Deranleau-Howard, the cast includes Mark Abel, as producer Bauman, who nails every one of his scenes; Seattle favorite Natalie Moe, who strikes a chord as Mack's on-set pianist, and Michael Krenning, continuing his climb in the Seattle musical community beautifully singing and acting, as the newsboy who grows up to be Frank Capra. The whole cast of 15 fills the intimate stage and invests fully in the story being told. Herman's score is a jaunty blend of silent movie irresistible melody and deeply moving ballads. His lyrics are also first rate, and his score is varied.
This is a rare chance to see something few theatregoers have ever experienced and an impressive debut for Sing Out Louise Theatricals. Head over and see Mack and Mabelyou will be grateful for a full evening of melodious escape!
Sing Out Louise Theatricals' Mack and Mabel runs through January 28, 2017, at SecondStory Repertory in Redmond Town Center (7325 166th Ave NE in Redmond on Seattle's Eastside). All seats $25.00. For tickets and other information, visit soltheatricals.org.