Susan, Richard, and I saw *Mack and Mabel* at City Center Encores! on 2/21/20. It’s a Broadway musical from 1972 with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (best known for *Hello, Dolly!* and *Mame*) and a book by Michael Stewart, set in the world of silent movies. The original production starred Robert Preston as director Mack Sennett and Bernadette Peters as his leading lady and girlfriend, Mabel Normand. Richard has always been a fan of the show through the original cast recording, and the score is extraordinary, many brilliant songs: “Movies Were Movies,” “Look What Happened To Mabel,” “I Won’t Send Roses,” “Tap Your Troubles Away,” and “Time Heals Everything.”
The Encores! production starred Douglas Sills as Sennett (we had seen him in *Living On Love* and in the dreaded *War Paint*) and Alexandra Socha as Normand. Susan and I saw *Hey, Look Me Over!* at Encores! in 2018 - - the purpose of Encores! is to do minimally-staged productions of forgotten and/or rarely revived Broadway musicals. They created *Hey, Look Me Over!* to open their 25th anniversary season, it was it a revue of numbers from shows that they had never done. Fascinating idea. They featured a set of numbers from *Mack and Mabel* starring Sills and Socha, so this show felt like they were making good on that promise. One other performer I need to mention: Lilli Cooper as another member of the Sennett company (we had seen her as Julie in *Tootsie*).
Here’s the conversation Richard and I had on our walk from City Center to the subway:
HIM: So what did you think?
ME: I’m writing my review right now. This show is totally made for Encores! - - you’re happy to see it once and never again. A lot of great songs but too many reprises and every number was too long. God, enough with the key changes already.
ME: I liked the girl a lot.
HIM: Yes, she was really good, she really knew what she was doing.
ME: And the other girl, the second lead, she was great.
HIM: She WAS great. But she had two really killer numbers, that helps. That song in the first act, it sounded too much like “It Was a Good Time” from *Liza With a Z.*
At this point we took a brief break from our walk across town to do a re-creation of that number.
HIM: [acknowledging the applause] Thank you, thank you.
ME: The lead guy was a problem.
HIM: He was not so great.
ME: There was something weird going on with his voice, you couldn’t always tell what pitch he was singing, that drove me nutty. But he had charisma.
HIM: I prefer that on a bagel.
Here’s Rita Moreno stopping the show at a Hollywood Bowl tribute to Herman. Tap your troubles away!