|Mack and Mabel (Michael Brunk)|
David-Edward Hughes love musicals and has for many years. 17 years ago, among other theatrical activities, he helped found Showtunes! Theatre Company. Their presentations are a model of concert stagings, with minimal sets and costumes, actors using scripts, and maximal singing talent. The opportunity afforded was also to present musicals that may well never be chosen to be fully staged, but still have an opportunity to experience them.
Hughes has now created a new company in a very similar model: Sing Out Louise Theatricals http://soltheatricals.org/ and produced his inaugural production. With the help of Secondstory Repertory in Redmond, they created a wonderful experience.
He chose Mack and Mabel, a lesser known musical by Jerry Herman of Hello Dolly fame. In his materials for the show, he detailed his years long desire to direct this musical and how unique it is: written in a happy musical style that turns darker in the second act, telling a true story of film producer Mack Sennet and his making a star out of Mabel Normand.
The talented cast, led by Marcus Wolland as Mack Sennet and Caitlin Frances as Mabel Normand (and including Loretta Deranleau Howard, Michael Krenning, Mark Abel, Michael Engh, Bill Hamer, John Kelleher, Kyle Fitzgerald, Jelani Kee, Natalie Moe, Joanna Hardie, Marissa Ryder, Kelly Ufford and Emily Welter), used scripts in hand – as opposed to on music stands – and actively moved around the stage very similarly to a full production.
In addition, they memorized their songs and even had some simple yet very effective choreography by Elizabeth Posluns. Still, the concept was “concert-style.” So, it was a great surprise when six of the ensemble came out and did a full out tap dancing routine! How fun was that!?
The basics of this generally-true-but-occasionally-embellished story are that Mack Sennet loves making people laugh through his films. He shoves young Mabel into his films from nowhere and picks a winner the public falls in love with, and so does he. The story moves from 1910 into the talkies, but not before Mabel gets tired of his hard-hearted behavior and leaves his studio. In the second act, Sennet finally unbends enough to ask her back, but it’s too little too late, since Mabel dies shortly after.
The music is a huge part of the draw for this show. Kim Douglass music directed a band of seven, a rather large amount for the tiny theater, to great effect.
Another aspect of this presentation was the visual effects that included all sorts of historic silent movies clips and pictures of the historical crew. These were quite effectively assembled and sometimes displayed in time to the music by James Spear.
Put a pin in the name of this new theatrical venture and stay tuned for whatever they might produce next. It will hopefully be just as fun and fulfilling.