The setting of this musical is New York in 1911 and Hollywood in the early twenties when movies were silent and the cinema was magic.
A scene from Mack andâ€ˆMabel at the Broadway Studio, Catford
Mack of the title is would-be comedy king director (Keystone Cops) Mack Sennett, while Mabel is deli-waitress Mabel Normand soon to become both his lover and his star.
Jerry Herman, with Mame, Hello Dolly, and La Cage aux Folles credits, contributes the music and lyrics, and this production, selling out, has a hot and rising musical director in Thom Southerland. Hot enough to be producing five shows next year.
With a cast of 17, plus a strong band of Alex Weatherhill musicians, the show is very much a team presentation and the most ambitious that this corner of south-east London has mounted. But quoting the show’s hit song I Won’t Send Roses sung by Sennett, then the Broadway Studio back room planners deserve a bouquet.
Karl Clarkson sings up a storm in his domineering role as self-centred, ill-tempered, and comedy-fixated Sennett. He has an iron voice that would delight any sergeant major, and his playing of the role highlights the flaws in Mack’s driven nature.
Despite his faults Gemma Boaden as Mabel is able to convey exactly why she will always love him - even if it costs her own life. She sings with feeling.
And while there is no sign of happiness for her or the man who wanted only to make the world laugh, it is not a sad night.
How could it be with nine girls tap dancing hilariously in one scene and 11 Keystone Cops chasing and hoofing in another routine.
Lisa Miller as Lottie sings and dances memorably and Sean Pol McGreevy is outstanding as singing scriptwriter Frank. The scripts may have been poor but he, as they said in the twenties, razzle-dazzles. The beach girl lovelies are cute, too.