Mack and Mabel, Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester. August 2015.
Regular blog readers will remember that a couple of years ago we went to see Barnum in the temporary tent theatre at Chichester with Mr Norfolkbookworm's aunt. The renovations to the main theatre have now been finished and Mack and Mabel caught the same aunt's eye and so we made a return trip.
Way back in the early spring when I booked this trip I had mixed experiences with the staff at the theatre. We needed seats that had little or no steps to gain access to them and the staff couldn't have been more helpful in recommending where to sit. However when booking opened it became a nightmare trying to book on-line, on behalf of someone else and I ended up sitting on hold for a very long time before getting the seats we needed. It was thus with mixed feelings we went to see this show.
Once more I knew nothing about the show, and the reviews I'd read were not entirely positive but again I trusted our companion's choice.
On the whole I really enjoyed the show, I thought the mixing of acting and footage from the actual films was done brilliantly, and the choreography was fantastic. I enjoyed all of the actors and thought that their singing, especially the main draw - Michael Ball, was top notch. Mabel didn't convince me quite as much but then as part of the plot line is that she is only a comic actress and not that great at anything else I chose to see this as a casting/directing decision.
The first act whizzed by and was highly enjoyable, custard pies and all. The second act felt a little padded to me. There was a great tap number but I'm not convinced that it was needed. The ending was a little like a punch in the stomach and very well done, what could have been horribly sentimental wasn't and did leave me with a slight lump in the throat. I do wonder if this would have been better as an edited, shorter, one act musical?
I didn't come out humming any of the tunes, and after the ending not particularly uplifted but I do have the urge to find and watch movies from the 1920s and before such as the Keystone Cops as the use of them on stage was great.
After my mixed experiences with the staff before our trip I'm pleased to report that they were all fantastic during our visit, helpful, friendly and knowledgeable.
I was left feeling a little perturbed by some of the audience/Michael Ball fans however. There is so much in the press currently about the 'bad behaviour' of Cumberbatch fans at Hamlet (which seems to all be rumour and nothing concrete) yet there were some in the CFT who could have been accused of the same behaviour and yet we hear nothing of that in the press. Oh well I shall report back as my next trip is to see the afore mentioned Hamlet...