Theatre: Mack & Mabel

Tuesday evening I caught Mack and Mabel at the Criterion Theatre. The production was from the same team at the Watermill Theatre who brought the pared-down version of Sweeney Todd I caught in 2004 (that is now playing on Broadway). This version uses the same techniques (so the actors play the musical instruments as well) and stars David Soul and Janie Dee.

The musical was a flop when it was first produced in 1974. The music and lyrics in this show by Jerry Herman are probably the most memorable thing with songs including "I won't send roses", "Time heals everything" and "Look what happened to Mabel". Even in a pared-down version with the singers belting out the numbers and then blowing a tuba or playing the violin, the songs still were great.

Less so was the chemistry between the two leads. At intermission there was a consensus that there wasn't much chemistry between Soul and Dee. There was a bit of bitchiness that Dee (who I saw last year in a cabaret performance at the Shaw Theatre) was too old for the role as well. I figured that because I was in third row I didn't benefit from more blurry vision of further back. I did think that Dee was sounding a little huskier than normal and perhaps the wintry weather that has come back for April had given her a frog in her throat. On the plus side, for "Time heals everything" in the second act, her husky voice gave the song a club-like sound, which I thought was a nice touch… By the time the curtain came down, everyone seemed fairly pleased with the show, although not everybody was perhaps ready to write home about it…

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