Review: Mack & Mabel

Musical Theatre Society

17th-20th March, Jane Holloway Hall, 7.30pm

I went along to watch the opening night of the Musical Theatre Society’s production of Mack and Mabel having never heard any of the songs, and not knowing anything about the show except that it was a musical about movies. But in the space of just over 2 hours, Mack and Mabel went from merely a name on a poster to being one of the best things I’ve  seen on campus this year.

Countless reviews of shows staged in Jane Holloway refer to how notoriously difficult the space can be to perform in, but I was struck on entering the hall by the way that the M&M Team had transformed the space. What can resemble a cold, empty village hall (or haunted swimming pool) suddenly felt like a director’s loft space, adorned with old movie posters, a camera and a director’s chair. This meticulous attention to detail was one of the things that won me over  the producers sold refreshments from boxes around their necks in the style of old cinemas, the staging blocks were covered in photos made to look like film reels, and the band were all appropriately attired something which is rarely seen but greatly appreciated.

So the show looks great, but it’s a musical, so how does it sound? Well, put simply, fantastic! Sometimes the leads of shows have amazing voices but the collective chorus sound doesn’t quite blend and individuals stand out – this was not the case with Mack and Mabel. Every single person on that stage deserves to be there, and the unity of their voices during full company numbers was of a professional quality. It is difficult to offer particular recognition to individuals in a cast which was collectively so strong, but credit must go to James Dance (Mack) and Beckie Burtenshaw (Mabel) who led the cast superbly.

And where would such a good cast be without the creative team behind the show? The band was flawless and expertly led by Matt Abrams, setting the tone well and providing professional accompaniment. Claire Garland was impressively inventive in her use of movement throughout the show and proved that onstage chaos works best when choreographed. But the real star of this show was the director, Adam Carver. Carver’s attention to detail, knowledge of the show and enthusiasm for the production arguably makes this show what it is, and is notably infectious to the rest of the cast and crew.

In the interest of a fair review, the only negatives I have about this production were that some words were lost in mumbled accents; some of the singing was overpowered by the band on occasion; and one or two scenes which took place on the floor were not visible to anyone past the third row. However, none of these things detracted from what was an excellent show, superbly directed and impressively performed. What’s more, the capacity opening night audience gave the show rapturous applause and a standing ovation, and if that’s anything to go by, you should get your tickets now before they sell out too!

Mack & Mabel playe at Jane Holloway Hall at 7.30pm (7pm Doors) on Monday 18th, Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th March.