The other day, I saw that there was a major revival tour in England of the Jerry Herman musical, Mack & Mabel, which starred Michael Ball, who was in the original productions of Les Miserables (as Marius) and Phantom of the Opera (playing Raoul). I was glad to see it -- the show was a flop on Broadway when it opened in 1974 and took 21 years for it to play on London's West End.
Though Mack & Mabel closed after just 66 performances, despite starring Robert Preston and a young Bernadtte Peters, it nonetheless received eight Tony nominations, including Best Musical.
I haven't seen the show, so I don't know its flaws or exactly why it flopped, but I've read that the show is a bit dark and somewhat of a downer, which is not what audiences necessarily expected or even wanted when going to see a musical by the writer of Hello, Dolly! and Mame about Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, two of the legends of silent comedies. The story tells about their ill-fated romance between an older man and his young, rising protege. Nothing tragic in the ill-fate, just that they were a mis-matched pair and there's no happily-ever-after between them at the end.
Interestingly, when it finally played on the West End, they revised things a bit, including most notably a happy ending with Mack and Mabel together. And the show ran for 270 performances.
Whatever its initial Broadway fate, or the evidence of it qualities in the London run, the show has a superb score. Not every song, there are a few mediocre numbers, but much of the score is Herman at his best, with a handful of gems. And the original cast album is a joy, starring Preston and Peters.
I've posted a few things from the show from time to time, most notably this long production from (I believe) the 1984 Tony Award broadcast which includes a segment with Preston and Peters re-creating their roles (about 23 minutes in). Unfortunately there just isn't much footage of them, though. I've found material from other major productions, and they're good -- and I'll be post some -- but they're just not the same. Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters just leap out far above.
Before posting any of those others, I felt that the two original deserved their place to show how it's done. They're only audio, but it'll have to suffice. And I think it does. This first by Preston is a well-done video with nicely edited material from the show and of the real Mack Sennett and Mabel Norman. It's also a simply wonderful song and Robert Preston sings it knowingly in a way that the other versions don't come close -- and explains right upfront why one shouldn't expect a happily-ever-after romantic ending, as Mack sings to Mabel, "I Won't Send Roses."
(Note: despite what it says below, this is Robert Preston only.)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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