TITLE: Huddersfield Light Opera CompanyMack & Mabel
VENUE: LBTREVIEW: David Lockwood
ONE year on from scoring a success with La Cage Aux Folles, the Light Opera Co have again plumped for another Jerry Herman musical, Mack & Mabel.
Based on the life-story of silent-movie director Mack Sennett and his tumultuous on-off love affair with his leading lady, Mabel Normand, Herman’s score has developed a real following in amateur circles.
For many years, the show has been withdrawn from amateur societies, due to re-writes and ‘fresh’ productions at professional level, but amazingly its greatest appeal was down to ice skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean who won the World Ice Dance Championship, skating to the Mack & Mabel overture in the early 80s.
And that in turn led to disc jockey David Jacobs championing the show by repeatedly playing tracks from the musical on his Radio Two programme.
Known as the King of Comedy Sennett founded the Keystone Studio in 1912, and was the brainchild behind the famous Keystone Cops as well as discovering the talents of people like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, but it was his relationship with Normand which made for such an intriguing piece of theatre.
Following on from his role of Georges in last year’s production, the society cast Nigel Dixon in the title role which he delivers forcibly.
At times he is perhaps a bit too forcible, for although Sennett was known to be a difficult, overbearing character, Dixon’s portrayal is both too dispassionate and bombastic to make him endearing to Mabel ‘the kid from the Deli.’
Opposite him Nicci Cooney, reprising the role she first played nine years ago, makes a compelling Mabel, bouncing around as Mack’s indestructible star until her eventual self-destruction – she was to die of tuberculosis in 1930.
Mainly a two-hander, there were several useful cameo performances, not least from Jethro Pope as Mr Kessel (one half of the business duo who backed Sennett) and from Nigel Town as rival director William Desmond Taylor who lured Mabel away from Sennett, but was ultimately responsible for her downward spiral.
There are bags of great songs both for principals and chorus which culminate in a brilliant Tap Your Troubles Away, featuring Jayne Davison as Lottie and the dancers.
Produced and choreographed by Pam Strickland, with Anne Levitt as MD, the show runs to Saturday, when there is also a matinee.