I thought this would be a fun, and very different, way to continue with the few posts here about the Jerry Herman musical Mack & Mabel. It's a performance by the legendary British ice dancers, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, at the 1982 World Championships in Copenhagen, skating to the overture of...Mack & Mabel.
There's a story behind this, of course, particularly since -- as I wrote the other day -- the show hadn't even played in the West End of London yet, and wouldn't for over another decade.
What happened was that Torvill & Dean were searching through their local radio station in their home base of Nottingham for something that might be interesting to perform to for the upcoming 1982 World Championships. And by chance, they came across the cast album of Mack & Mabel - a show, again as I said, that hadn't even ever played on the West End.. The only reason the station had a copy, most likely, is because there had only been one production of the show in England, and it had been in 1981 at, of all places, the Nottingham Playhouse.
(That production nonetheless had an impressive cast -- two terrific actors starred, Dennis Quilley and Imelda Staunton, who at the time was only 25, but would later go on to get an Oscar nomination for Vera Drake and also receive eight Olivier nominations for her stage work, winning three. On a personal note, I very briefly worked with Dennis Quilley on a press junket in New York years ago for the film, Evil Under the Sun, that starred Peter Ustinov as Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot. I recall Quilley has being a very pleasant, genial fellow. But I digress...)
Anyway, Torvill & Dean listened to the album, loved the overture -- as well they should, as I've mentioned -- and choreographed their performance to it. (Not shockingly, they won, their third of four consecutive World Championships.) The performance got so much attention in England that the record company had to re-release the cast album of Mack & Mabel, where it eventually reached #6 on the charts!
Interestingly, despite flopping on Broadway, the show has had a respectable bit of success in England. There have been at least three notable productions, including one on the West End that ran for 266 performances, and only this year a production was done at the acclaimed Chichester Festival, which led to a national tour. Part of the reason might be because of the rewritten, happier ending. But I suspect that some, too, is because it got so much positive attention in the U.K. from this skating performance by Torvill and Dean.
One final word. As readers of these pages know, I abhor ice dancing as an Olympic sport. It's perfectly lovely, and lends itself wonderfully to ice shows and such things, but no matter how much I try to wrap my mind around it, it is simply not a sport. It's dancing on a very slippery surface. It's no more an Olympic sport than competitive ballroom dancing is. I just can't watch it during the Olympics. There has been one exception -- Torvill & Dean. It's not that I think they make it into a sport, but rather that...well, they are just so freaking good. When you get a perfect 10.0 score at the Olympics when they did their famous Bolero, that speaks to how freaking good they are.
This performance isn't at that level, but it's wonderful, impeccable, and good enough to have won them the Gold Medal at the 1982 World Championships. And it brought Mack & Mabel to the English public, who fell for the score.
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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