Just over 30 years ago Michael Ball made his debut on the Manchester Opera House stage in The Pirates of Penzance and now he’s back to tread the boards in the UK and Ireland tour of Mack and Mabel.
The double Olivier Award winner, who has starred in Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and more recently Hairspray, takes on the role of domineering silent movie director Mack Sennett, who accidentally discovers a new starlet of the screen in the guise of feisty Mabel Normand (Rebecca La Chance), a waitress from Brooklyn. Set in the 1920s the show follows the highs and lows of the pair as they develop a love hate relationship whilst Sennett tries everything to make his mark on the silver screen.
From the moment he steps onstage Ball proves he’s as mesmerising as ever, acting every word, working every move and effortlessly breaking into numbers like I Wanna Make The World Laugh and I Won’t Send Roses. With such a stalwart at the helm you know you are in safe hands with this production-although to be fair each and every one of the cast members are West End standard.
Rebecca La Chance may be no stranger to the Broadway stage but the American actress makes her British stage debut here in the role of Mabel and she proves the perfect match for Ball. From ditzy bubblegum waitress to a leading musical star who is later ravaged by drink and drugs La Chance delivers a great balance of light and shade including a stunning rendition of Time Heals Everything.
A special mention must go to the supporting role of Anna Jane-Casey as Lottie who gives a fabulous performance of Tap Your Troubles Away and plays her role with gusto and sass.
Every one of Jeremy Herman’s toe tapping tunes can’t fail to entertain you and Stephen Mear’s choreography is both slick and stylised. Hats off too to Director Jonathan Church who has devised delightfully complex sequences which leave your eyes darting from one performer to another - especially true of the Keystone Cops parody which is full of slapstick and truncheon waving a plenty!
Robert Jones clever set designs are evocative of the silver screen era and they merge seamlessly with John Driscoll’s video projections, both factors keeping you enthralled and marvelling at their effortless synchronicity.
Since Mack and Mabel opened in 1974 the musical has received mixed reviews and never quite hit the mark with theatre-goers worldwide, hence the many empty seats at the Opera House – but this production proves the show has every right to be back on top where it belongs.
If you want to be transported back 100 years to a time where black and white movies were king and the silent movie ruled then ‘spare a dime’ for Mack and Mabel whilst it’s in town you will not be disappointed.
Runs till 24 October, Manchester Opera House