Theatre Review: Mack and Mabel - Southwark Playhouse ✭✭✭✭✭

Danielle Tarento
In association with Southwark Playhouse presents:

Mack and Mabel

Book by Michael Stewart.
Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.
Revised by Francine Pascal.

11th July - Astonishingly Mack and Mabel has been said to be one of the best scores never to become a Broadway hit, however Thom Southerland's production without a doubt was one of the best musicals I have seen away from the west end in years. With an all round excellent cast along with a spectacular score the story of a tempestuous relationship between director and Hollywood starlet didn’t leave a dry eye in the audience and finished to a standing ovation.

Set in 1920’s Hollywood in the era of the silent movie. Mack Sennet, played by Norman Bowman (Theatre includes UK Tour of End of the Rainbow and Mamma Mia at The Prince of Wales) a successful comedy director discovers Mabel Normand, played by Laura Pitt-Pulford (Theatre includes Sweet Charity at MAC Belfast and The Little Prince at The Lyric, Belfast) a waitress from Brooklyn. The audience were swept up into the journey of there tragic yet romantic relationship and learn, along with the characters that stardom and success in Hollywood doesn’t in fact bring happiness.

Bowman and Pitt-Pulford play brilliantly off each other and truly capture the audience. Although a slow start to the show I felt that after the first few scenes the actors really came to life and the show got better and better. The chorus were strong and when the cast performed together in numbers such as Make the world laugh and Hit ‘em on the head you couldn’t help but tap your feet and feel captivated by the performers. Pitt-Pulford gave a particularly moving and emotional performance of Wherever he ain’t which was truly unforgettable. She emits star quality and should really be on a west end stage with such a powerful and talented voice, she shone throughout the production.

The ‘Vault’ at the Southwark Playhouse at first seemed an odd venue to stage a musical, damp dark and slightly dreary but I was amazed at how perfect it was once the lights came on and the energetic company were present. The acoustics were so effective and I was pleasantly surprised when the full band emerged from a back room and bowed at the end (I was convinced the soundtrack was being played electronically!) The space was used very well all though at times I felt the audiences to the side of the performers were slightly ignored.

My favorite numbers would have to be when the whole cast came together in the all singing and dancing performances. Hundreds of girls and Tap your troubles away were show-stopping numbers and the choreography by Lee Proud was clever, effective and performed with perfection leaving the most highly critical impressed!

This production of Mack and Mabel is definitely a must see. With such professionalism at such low prices it is unmissable. Southwark Playhouse is an interesting and quirky venue which I will be going back to see what else it has to offer. With great acting, singing and dancing no musical theatre lover will be disappointed with this show.

5 out of 5 stars!

Box Office: 02074070234
Runs until the 25th August
Southwark Playhouse, Shipwright Yard, London, SE1 2TF

Review by Camilla Marlow