Thursday, October 17, 2013

MT Soundtracker: Day 17

Mack & Mabel (1974)

Original London Cast Recording (1995)

Music & Lyrics: Jerry Herman

Synopsis: Set in Brooklyn in 1911 as a flashback, Mack Sennett was a silent movie director who spotted the talent of Mabel, a delicatessen worker, and made her a film star. Although Mabel falls for Mack, she wants to act in serious films instead of just doing the comedies Mack wants to direct so she meets with another director, William Desmond Taylor, who is attracted to her and is prepared to give her a role in a drama. 

What I found the most intriguing about this soundtrack was the fact that Mabel's character development is perfectly discernible even just hearing the recording. Without giving the whole plot away, Mabel starts in a very girly, energetic voice (Look What Happened to Mabel) and this contrasts with the maturity she has developed and reaches towards the end of the show (Time Heals Everything). I was astonished by the excellent communication of the recording in this respect.
Although Mack and Mabel is set in the early 20th century, it is obvious from the soundtrack that the musical is from  a much later decade. The orchestrations are more modern and when a track such as Tap Your Troubles Away comes on, however customary tap was to a certain era in musical theatre, it feels out of place here. However, the audible jazz influence traditionally associated with the earlier musicals has been incorporated with the newer Broadway sound. 

Although the original Broadway production received praise from the critics, it only ran for eight weeks and despite getting nominated for several Tony Awards, it won none. 
Interestingly, the musical became known to a large proportion of the British public in the 1980's as a British team won the World Figure Skating Championships in ice dance and they used the overture of Mack and Mabel as their music. As a result, the high demand resulted in the original cast recording being re-released in the UK. Still it took the musical another 10 years to actually open in the West End.  

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