Monday, February 24, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W8: Mack & Mabel

2/20/20: Mack & Mabel
What: City Center Encores! presents the Jerry Herman not-quite-a-classic about the ill-fated romance between silent film director Mack Sennett and his star Mabel Normand.
And? When Encores! presented Hey, Look Me Over, a revue of songs from various forgotten shows, Douglas Sills and Alexandra Socha performing a few numbers from Mack & Mabel was the standout, and I remember writing here that I would love for Encores! to present the full show with these two in the lead. Well, they heard my plea and did it, and now we have a bit of Be Careful What You Wish For. I just don't like this show. It's tonally a mess, it's not nearly as funny as the real life work of its two stars would seem to demand it be, and when we finally got to "When Mabel Comes in the Room" (aka "Hello, Dolly," aka "Mame"), I sat back, completely disconnected and thought, "well, I guess Jerry Herman writes this song for every show." Outside of the writing, I don't have a lot of positive to say about this production. I think it's clumsily staged and choreographed, and doesn't use its A-list cast to particular advantage. Sills is wonderful but even he with his effortless charisma can't make me like Mack. Socha fares better because she has the better part, and generally the better songs. But sigh. On the plus: Encores! did what it was made to do, give us a chance to see not-often-produced musicals with full orchestra and stellar cast. On the minus: we see why they're seldom produced. At least I now know where the Keystone Kops originated.

Alexandra Socha and Douglas Sills as Mabel and Mack. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W6: Dear Evan Hansen

2/05/20: Dear Evan Hansen
a repeat visit for a friend's birthday.
Quick thoughts: What's striking now is just how potent Ben Platt's performance was, both for holding the center of the show, and for encouraging the audience to forgive his character perhaps more than he deserves. Zachary Noah Piser was great, but Platt was that little something extra. Now the show's heart belongs much more to the two mothers, and I feel very lucky I got to see Christane Noll and Jessica Phillips, who led the national tour, take on the roles here. Heartbreaking and fully complicatedly human.

Also just because I love this so much, please watch Russell Harvard's amazing ASL performance of "Waving Through a Window":