Mack and Mabel (LMTO), Hackney Empire | Review

Sunday 24 September 2017

Mack and Mabel
Hackney Empire
Reviewed on Saturday September 23rd 2017 by Olivia Mitchell

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) have done it again. Another fantastic celebration of a beautiful score performed by a beautiful orchestra and a beautiful cast. It was just a whole lot of beautiful, okay! This time we were treated to the delights of Jerry Herman’s, Mack and Mabel which chronicles the story a young deli girl who miraculously ends up a film actress and falls in love and into a tumultuous relationship with her director, Mack Sennett who is so obsessed with making his next picture that he doesn't see what's right in front of him.

Opening the concert, Freddie Tapner (founder of the LMTO) explained that the music was going to speak for itself and he was so right. Having seen the show previously at the Chichester Festival Theatre I thought I knew what I was in for but seeing it so stripped back, I developed a new love and appreciation for Jerry Herman's stunning virtuosic moments and really realised what a stunning piece of work this is. 

I was lucky enough to be part of an LMTO sing-through and completely fell in love with the way Freddie conducts; making the players and singers feel comfortable whilst giving tonnes and tonnes of energy. His love of music and conducting is evident and, from watching the orchestra play with beaming smiles, obviously infectious. It was truly joyous to see so much excitement from the orchestra as they played, especially in the epic Hit 'Em On The Head instrumental break which is a maelstrom of astonishing musical moments. With no action on stage it's clear just how wonderful the music is as you could picture each movement the keystone cops would have been making without having to see a thing. With many shows cutting back on orchestra size and some even having recorded music, it's an absolute joy to be able to relish in the decadence of hearing a full orchestra in all their glory. 

Tiffany Graves was fabulous as Lottie Ames with her beautiful and powerful voice ringing out wonderfully and her facial expressions cracking the audience up! Her tap number in act 2 was certainly a stand out moment. I fell in love with Liam Tamne's voice every time he had a solo moment; so clear and lovely- I just wish we'd heard more! Will Arundell and Matt Harvey were great as the businessmen Kessel and Baumann, suitably dorky and humourous, especially in Hit 'Em On The Head, as was Jack Edwards as Fatty Arbuckle.

Taking the titular roles of Mack and Mabel we had David Bedella and Natasha J Barnes who both pulled them off expertly. David played the regretful, extravagant Mack with sincerity and full of glorious vocal moments, especially during the finale, I Promise You A Happy Ending. However, it was Natasha who completely stole the show with her utterly magnificent masterclass performance as the excitable, loved-up, Mabel who falls into darkness. Her rendition of Time Heals Everything physically gave me heart palpitations. Natasha took the ending up the octave which completely took my breath away and gained an instant mid-show standing ovation from the entire audience. It was a truly magnificent moment of musical theatre that I won't be forgetting soon. There aren't even words to describe how spectacular Natasha is; she's truly a gift from the musical theatre gods!

The LMTO chorus and dancers just like everything else, were fantastic. The hundreds of girls moment was a spectacle choreographed by Anthony Whiteman and the cherry on top of an exceptional production. I honestly can't fault anything.

Overall this was just an impeccable night of musical theatre and despite only being a concert performance, was one of the best shows I've seen in a while. The LMTO are going from strength to strength and I can't wait to see everything they tackle in the future. This performance of Mack and Mabel was a truly glorious presentation of a spectacular score with a completely and utterly faultless cast and orchestra. Sensational.