WAAPA’s (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) mid-year musical this year, Mack and Mabel, is based on the true story of silent movie director Mack Sennett and his ’two reeler’ star Mabel Normand’s tumultuous romantic relationship.
A history of Sennett and Normand’s life is creatively projected onto a giant screen, designed by Max Mackenzie, while the overture is performed by the orchestra under the baton of musical director, Tim Cunniffe. Their story is unfolded cleverly, as each fact appears to be matched to the composition of the orchestrations.
In this production Director, Crispin Taylor uses two students to play the role of Mack Sennett. Rohan Campbell plays Sennett as he reflects on his life, while Jackson Britza plays young Sennett during flashbacks and recollections of the older Sennett’s life.
Both successfully complete the huge task set for them, as they must become one person to establish and convince the audience of their tumultuous and romantic relationship with Mabel.
Campbell assumes the role of good cop as he reflects on his life and what could have been with Mabel while Britza is the bad cop treating Mabel as ‘his discovery’ to be made a star or tossed aside according to his whim.
Sarah Monteau gave a fine and fragile performance as the female lead Mabel who suffered from tuberculosis. At times though, her solos requiring depth and passion lacked some of the bravado and sentiment needed to deliver them with conviction.
Harry Fenn, as Frank, has a face that expresses one thousand emotions, and Regan Barber, as Lottie, has a powerful voice and stage presence that demands the audience’s attention.
At times during the first act the orchestra drowned out the voices of the cast and I’m not sure why in 2022 it was necessary for Peter Ho, playing producer Baumann to have a cigar as a prop. Ho and Hamish Pickering as two producers bounce off each other to produce a solid performance.
Choreography by Jayne Smeulders, had a graceful, powerful aesthetic. At times the second year students commanded the audience’s attention with their masterful dance sequences.
Highlights included the chorus line of high kicking ‘Keystone Cops’, high-energy tap routines, and the comedic routine as lunch bags, briefcases, and babies are thrown between cast members.
WAAPA’s 2022 mid-year production, Mack and Mabel, shares a true moment in history with comedy, show-stopping numbers, and heart.
Mack and Mabel
His Majesty’s Theatre, 825 Hay Street, Perth
Performance: Saturday 11 June 2022
Season continues to 16 June 2022
Information and Bookings: www.waapa.ecu.edu.au
Image: Mack and Mabel – photo by Stephen Heath
Review: Craig Dalglish