Musical with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart with 2006 revisions by Francine Pascal.
A Brooklyn deli-delivery girl turns up on the set of silent movie director, Mack Sennet, creator of the Keystone Cops. She catches his eye and soon his heart. Before long Mabel Normand is starring in Sennett's two-reel movies and together they bring glamour to the silver screen. But showbiz and ambition make for a tempestuous relationship. Out of the Silent Movie era and the heady heights of 1920s Hollywood, Mack and Mabel tells the heart-wrenching love story of two of its greatest legends; director Mack Sennett 'The King of Comedy' and his star, comedienne Mabel Normand. This dramatic love story interwoven with Herman's wonderful score including Tap Your Troubles, Time Heals Everything and I Won't Send Roses.
Original London West End Production 1995
Previewed 24 October 1995, Opened 7 November 1995, Closed 29 June 1996 at the Piccadilly Theatre
The cast featured Howard McGillin as 'Mack Sennett' and Caroline O'Connor as 'Mabel Normand' with Kathryn Evans as 'Lottie'. James Smillie took over as 'Mack Sennett' from Monday 26 February 1996. Directed by Paul Kerryson with choreography by Michael Smuin, designs by Martin Jones, lightng by Chris Ellis and sound by Rick Clarke.
1st West End Revival 2006
Previewed 5 April 2006, Opened 10 April 2006, Closed 1 July 2006 at the Criterion Theatre
Revival of Jerry Herman's 'Hollywood Musical' Mack and Mabel in London starring David Soul and Janie Dee and directed by John Doyle.
After seeing the Opening Night performance at London's Criterion Theatre, the show's composer/ lyricist, Jerry Herman said: "Tonight I saw the definitive Mack and Mabel."
The cast for Mack and Mabel in London features David Soul as 'Mack Sennet' and Janie Dee as 'Mabel Normand along with Richard Brightiff, Tomm Coles, Robert Cousins, Michelle Long, Robon Pirongs, Jon Trenchard, Simon Tuck, Sarah Whittuck and Matthew Woodyatt. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, book by Michael Stewart with revisions by Francine Pascal, it is directed by John Doyle with designs by Mark Bailey, lighting by Richard G Jones, sound by Gary Dixon and musical arrangements by Sarah Travis. This production transferred to London's West End following a season at the Watermill Theatre and short regional tour. John Doyle's recent West End directing credits include Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd (Trafalgar Studios and Ambassadors Theatre 2004/2005). Jerry Herman's West End credits include Hello Dolly!. Janie Dee's West End credits include Sophisticated Ladies at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre) in 1992.
"If ever a show deserved to move from small beginnings to the big time, this is it. Jerry Herman's 1974 musical about Mack Sennett and his star actresses and lover, Mabel Normand, started life at Newbury's tiny Watermill Theatre... David Soul repeats his Mack... Janie Dee has taken over as Mabel and moved effortlessly from perky waif in a white bonnet to steely star with soft, killer eyes... For warmth and buzz and cracking high spirits, I can't think of a better show." The Sunday Times
"Small-scale musicals are the latest big idea. Chicago was streamlined and Sweeney Todd and Sunday In The Park With George were successfully scaled down from ten-gallon to pint-size. Now Jerry Herman's 1974 show about silent movie mogul Mack Sennett's stormy affair with actress Mabel Normand has been chopped off at the knees... Simple staging and getting the actors to provide their own musical accompaniment hasn't solved the problem, even though the casting of David Soul and Janie Dee gives star quality to mini-musicals master John Doyle's version... Although David Soul may be a little too cuddly for the ruthless, one track-minded Sennett - movies, not sex, dominated his life - sings well, as befits a former hitmaker. Janie Dee is captivating as the tragic drink and drugs-fuelled Normand, who ended up dead at 35. Trouble is this is downbeat. Great performances and songs, shame about the story." The Sun
Jerry Herman, the writer of Mack and Mabel on his experience of seeing this production for the first time at the Watermill Theatre: "It was an eye-opening experience. There was my big musical on a tiny wooden stage but it reached into the heart of Mack and Mabel and made that love story really riveting. You saw its tragic end better than we had ever seen before, and, of course, that's what appealed to me about the story to begin with: It's on impossible love affair but a genuine one, and even though the man - Mack Sennett, creator of the Keystone Cops - couldn't say I love you and even though he practically drove the girl to drugs and booze and ruin, he then does something gigantic in actually having his studio make a last film for her - to bolster her when she really needed it, which is a great affirmation. It's a way of saying 'I love you' without saying those words... I was thrilled and stunned by John's production and by Sarah Travis's arrangements - it's almost like I had gone to New Orleans in its heyday and heard that score played by musicians in a Mardi Gras. That's the best way of describing what happened to me when I heard my music arranged in this way. It was everything musically I could ask for and had thought I could never better; this brings out the best in the score."
The undisputed 'King of Comedy' in Hollywood's early years was Mack Sennett, co-founder in 1912 of the Keystone Company. Under his direction, the Keystone name became synonymous with the very best of silent slapstick as Sennett and his dedicated gang of performers created a fresh new screen style that drew laughs from audiences and critics alike. Keystone soon became the silent screen's foremost comedy mill with Sennett himself its self-appointed producer of laughs. From these studios came the custard pie, the Keystone Kops, the bathing beauties and literally hundreds of short two reelers. Mabel Normand was born in 1895 of an Irish mother and a French father. In 1908 she moved with her parents to New York where she found work as an artist and photographer's model. At the age of 16 Mabel went to work for Biograph Studios on East 14th Street. Her radiant screen presence and comic wit soon made her a box office favourite and it was not long before she was one of the Studio's most popular and valuable stars. It was while at Biograph that Mabel met and fell in love with the actor and director Mack Sennett. In 1912, when Mack set up Keystone Pictures, she joined him. Their tempestuous love affair was to last for many years.
Mack and Mabel in London at the Criterion Theatre previewed from 5 April 2006, opened on 10 April 2006 and closed on 1 July 2006.