by Paula Citron
The flop 1974 Jerry Herman musical “Mack and Mabel” has one of the worst books and some of the best lyrics to have ever played Broadway. Happily, the show at the Shaw Festival under director Molly Smith works because she ignores the limp story and concentrates on lavish production numbers.
The musical was inspired by the decades long, on and off again relationship between silent era movie director Mack Sennett and actress Mabel Normand. Canadian-born Sennett churned out successful two-reel comedies that featured the Keystone Kops, while the lovable pixie Normand, Sennett’s greatest muse, was the acknowledged comic queen of silent films.
What story there is a flash-back monologue by Sennett (Benedict Campbell) remembering his movie career and Normand (Glynis Ranney). There is strong chemistry between the two.
In short, “Mack and Mabel” may have been reduced by Smith and her cohorts to superficial gloss, but it’s splashy fun.
Mack and Mabel continues until Oct. 28.
From the Shaw Festival Theatre, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.