FOR an evening of great musical theatre forget the West End and head instead to the Southwark Playhouse.
This two-auditorium theatre just off Tooley Street has a well-deserved reputation for putting on amazing productions that would rival any West End show, and at a fraction of the price.
The current offering in the atmospheric setting of its space the Vault is Mack & Mabel directed by Thom Southerland.
It tells the story of the tumultuous romantic relationship between Hollywood director Mack Sennett (played by Norman Bowman) and Mabel Normand (Laura Pitt-Pulford), a waitress from Brooklyn, New York, who he turned into one of his biggest stars.
The audience is taken back to their first meeting in the 1920s and then through the glory days of Sennett’s Keystone Studios with Mabel starring in dozens of his two-reelers, the creation of his Bathing Beauties and the Keystone Cops and finally to Mabel’s early death from a drug overdose.
We also see how the arrogant and tyrannical Sennett, with single-minded determination resists the winds of change which are happening in his industry, desperately clinging to his silent two-reelers while all the other Hollywood studios are embracing the talkies.
It is this resistance that costs him dear – losing him money, his reputation and ultimately his relationship with Mabel who is poached by a rival studio.
With a spectacular score including “Look What Happened To Mabel” and “I Won’t Send Roses” Mack & Mabel is a touching and ultimately heart-breaking story.
The whole cast is excellent and the dance routines of the Bathing Beauties and Keystone Cops are so energetic, fun and entertaining it was a real thrill to watch.
But it was Bowman and Pill-Pulford as the two stars who stood out, with tremendous voices and brilliantly showed off the tensions, hopes, expectations and sadness of their characters.
Mack and Mabel is on at the Southwark Playhouse until August 25.
Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7407 0234