Theatre Review: Mack & Mabel at the Hayes Theatre is a boisterous and lively take on the Broadway flop

Mack and Mabel is a musical that I hadn’t yet gotten around to listening or paying much attention to. When the Hayes announced that they were producing it however, I decided to take a nosy into what it was all about. From what I could garner the musical was a bit of a well-known, somewhat cherished, Broadway flop. And so armed with this knowledge, and a particularly excellent rendition of what I presume to be its “hit song” I Won’t Send Roses (sung by John Barrowman) in I went.

And the truth? The critics are right. It’s just not that great a show. It’s ok, and it certainly has its moments (like every show) but really without that little bit of lively Hayes sparkle that comes from everything produced at the Hayes I’m not sure what would be left.

The story is told through flashbacks and freeze frames, with the audience being taken back in time to what happened to Mack and what happened to Mabel.

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Mack Sennett (Scott Irwin), a film director, first discovers Mabel (Angelique Cassimatis) when she bursts onto one of his sets with “what she felt popping out for the world to see”. Soon the company is on the way to (bigger time) LA and a besotted Mabel has managed to somewhat win over Mack into starting something, despite his assurances it’s not a good idea. Irwin brings out a heartfelt “I Won’t Send Roses” despite recently suffering a haphazard trip down a tricky step. Still my favourite song of the musical.

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Mabel is very much not a typical female lead in many ways. She’s quite harsh and loud (and this doesn’t really lessen), but Cassimatis still manages to break through the harshness with some resounding notes in her stunning voice. Her fur-coated number “Wherever He Ain’t” certainly a gutsy standout.

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Soon Mabel’s “integrity as an artist” leads her away from Mack (go girl!). And let’s just say that Jealous Sennett is probably the best form of Sennett, although Regretting Sennett is probably fairly up there too. If you like your male leads Henry Higgins like (like a certain this here writer) then you’re in a good place. Mack’s moment before intermission is particularly poignant. The world now wants more Sennett, but Sennett just wants Mabel. Sigh.

Things of course don’t go much better from there for our couple, and despite their height difference still being so utterly cute (!), we’re soon met with disaster. “Time heals everything, except loving you”. Sigh sigh!

It just seems to be a show that lacks a heart at the real crux of things- I guess building up a lead character of which you’re meant to grow fond only to see her ruin herself as a drug addict kinda puts a dampener on things. Musical theatre-goers can deal with a tragedy, but it has to leave us a hero in return.

So a couple of great songs, I must pay note to a particularly wonderfully gender-inclusive rendition of Bathing Beauties with Shay Debney showing off legs to put us all to shame really. A bunch of good performances, where I wanted to hear more from Stephen Valeri (as what we did get to hear hinted at some really fabulous vocal chords!). Plenty of Hayes sparkle, with lots of boisterous and lively movement about the stage and some great costuming. All in all- worth a watch, if not for anything more than to tick this one off your “Seen It” musicals list.

Come tap your troubles away at Mack & Mabel at the Hayes Theatre until the 18th December. For more information and to book visit www.hayestheatre.com.au

Photos credit (c) Lightbox Photography

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