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Mack & Mabel is currently showing at Manchester’s Opera House and I was lucky enough to be invited to the press night on Tuesday. I love musicals and I love movies. This show is a musical about movies, so I was expecting great things – and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
Throwing this out there straight away: it was BRILLIANT! A triumph! Go see it! Go book your tickets and then come back and finish reading this.
I’m finding this very difficult to write because the show as a whole just makes me sigh and shake my head and murmur out, exasperated, ‘It was so good!’
I’m going to break it down into manageable chunks so I can get it all out and finish this review.
First thing I need to mention is how, throughout the whole show, the orchestra was playing high up at the top of the stage and they brought to life every number. They hit me right in the feels when they needed to and put a huge smile on my face when they needed to. Jerry Herman’s musical creation was incredible and when the focus was only on their playing, they were delightful to watch and just enjoy.
The show started with this glorious music. My head was bobbing from side to side, and when I realised I didn’t stop myself because I was loving it.
Michael Ball entered stage right and dominated straight away with opener ‘Movies Were Movies’. I’ve never seen Michael Ball onstage before, I just knew that he’s a LEGEND and I’m so glad I lost my Ball virginity (refrain from jokes please) with Mack & Mabel.
Ball was great. He made me laugh, made me smile, made me want to elbow Mabel out of the way and let him sweet talk me – but most of all what really gripped me was his ability to make me think that he’s an absolute bastard who needs to shut his mouth while I clobber him with a wet fish! I want to be his friend.
Opposite Ball was Rebecca Lachance, stepping into the glitzy shoes of Mabel Normand. She plays a humble sandwich delivery girl, plucked from obscurity and made into a star because of her natural slapstick ability. Her transformation from sassy, no-nonsense movie star to washed up coke mess was incredible. Her voice filled the entire theatre. Everyone felt it and was touched by it.
Remember in my Annie review how I mentioned about my high point being the NYC number because of the high-waisted sailor costumes for the ensemble? Well, that number was blown away by ‘Hundreds of Girls’. Every single male member of the ensemble had on a skintight 20s striped beach bathing suit whilst rolling about on giant yoga balls and throwing around the also deliciously clad female ensemble members. I don’t actually remember the song, but the scene is something I’ll never forget. I needed a cold shower during the interval.
That does take me onto the visuals, though. Holy shit! Can we just? I’m a super fan of early 20th-century fashion. Sequins, tassels, sweater vests, braces, pork pie hats, spats… The lot! I’ve never seen as many sweater vests in my life, and I’ve never felt happier. Robert Jones, Mr. Costume Designer, I tip my hat to you. Wonderful job! And your sets as well! I was particularly impressed at the back of your observation car in the train. The backdrop was really cleverly done.
Okay, so onto my MVP… This woman got me right from the beginning when she was told to step it up by Mack – and oh, she stepped it up! Anna-Jane Casey, I bow down to you. Lottie Ames was my favourite character and it was because of Anna-Jane. All of the sass, the attitude, the booty shaking and shimmying during ‘Tap Your Troubles Away’. Everything. Her attitude did it for me. I could feel the dedication to her role. She sparkled for me.
I’m not usually a fan of gratuitous swearing, even though I swear gratuitously, but when she sang the word ‘bastards’ in ‘Big Time’ I was living! Sat in my seat ‘yaaaaaaaaasss’-ing and everything.
In conclusion, Mack & Mabel was and is brilliant, and it’s not a show I’ll forget any time soon. I think I’m going to go again.
Tickets are available on the ATG website.