the reports in this thread have been kind... even generous...
Last Edit: Chazwaza 08:11 pm EST 02/21/24
Posted by: Chazwaza 07:59 pm EST 02/21/24
In reply to: MACK AND MABEL Full Production in Los Angeles - bicoastal 09:42 pm EST 02/18/24

***Dermot Mulroney, please don't read this if you're sensitive.***
***the makers of this production, please don't read this unless you're looking for constructive, if harsh, feedback to apply for the future****


I was there too. It was a mix of fun and painful. And I hate to have to say that, but it was. I enjoyed many things about this production. Most consistently I enjoyed Caroline O'Conner... she was the show, she was great in her dialogue, her singing and her dancing, and her "Tap Your Troubles Away" was fantastic, a highlight (choreo included, well done!).

I also enjoyed Jenna Lee Rosen who made a good Mabel, and I suspect would have made a great Mabel had she had a good director to get her there (or a director capable of pulling off more in such short time-- which is probably a key element to much of my issues with this production and his direction of it). She's clearly very talented and that was on display. I think we'll see more of her in the future.

I also enjoyed the actor who played Frank, who was very talented and winning.

And most of all, I enjoyed the orchestra, which sounded very good, and Fred Barton was delightful to watch conduct, he was loving every minute of the score.

But first and foremost the entire venture was not only sunk, and I mean sunk, but rendered (offensively) pointless by the casting -and what I'd very generously call "performance"- of Dermot Mulroney in the lead role of Mack. My god. I'm sure he's a very nice, hard-working person who wanted to take this challenge on a kill it. I don't know what happened in the short rehearsal process, or in the casting process that got them to want him for this or him to this he should take it on under these circumstances... but I didn't have to read that this was his first professional stage production to know it. Far as I can tell he has never done a play in any size role, let alone a musical, let alone the very big very key lead role of a musical... you'd have known this from watching him in the show, or at least have thought it. It also happens to be true to his experience from what I've read from his Instagram.

What was the point of mounting a production of this rarely produced show -- getting special permission from the estate to do it, no less -- if they were going to go star-hunting and wind up with someone who is a wonderful stage actor but not quite a big star name, but who A) Does not really sell tickets to a crowd who would come to a musical they've never heard of, B) CANNOT PERFORM THE ROLE. Let alone within the week they had to rehearse it, and perform it in front of a full audience of people who paid an average of $100 a ticket to see it.

With all due respect, I genuinely thought he was drunk or very hung over most of the show. He started his entrances and first scene as if he was drunk, coming into his old studio thinking about her, and I thought "wow this is wonderfully convincing acting", then I worried the rest of the show that he wasn't acting drunk. ***I am sure he wasn't drunk, i'm not actually accusing him of such unprofessionalism.**** He couldn't remember his lines, it was as if he never learned them (and it's entirely likely he couldn't in the time he had to memorize and rehearse). This is someone whose career would tell me he's never had to memorize more than 4 pages before... which is no slight to him. Again, he's a wonderful screen actor who I've liked in several things. (Still his name alone would never get me to see him in a play let alone for $100, and I'm not sure how many people his name would do that for)

So no matter what else was in store with this production, that sunk it. And it's a real shame especially because these producers clearly felt they needed a name, they even promised it when they announced this inaugural production (for some reason). But if this was the deal they made, the exchange, for getting a movie/tv name, they made a very bad deal for the show and the audience... no matter how hopeful it seemed when casting. He clearly has some voice, some potential to sing, but he needed way WAY more time to be passable in this role vocally, let alone *confident*. But it wasn't just the singing I'm sorry to say. A production like this must know the restraints it has, the limits, the extreme challenges... putting on a fully produced staging of a big old fashioned musical is hard even with 6 weeks, or 4... but 1? But to do it in 1 week, or even 2, with a lead actor who has never done stage work let alone a lead let alone a lead in a musical is deeeeeply self-sabotaging, and was a mistake of hubris I have to estimate.

Unfortunately for the show and the other leads and the talented and far-too-big ensemble, they didn't have the A+ production they seemed to think they were putting on outside of the movie-star-who-turned-out-a-flop-on-stage lead performance...

I have no seen Thompson's work before, though it seems he's done lots of great work, at least in the world of Camp theater.
This was not the right situation for him. I have no doubt he loves this musical. It's too bad he couldn't do it justice when given the chance.
For some reason they decided this staged concert needed to be a full production, crammed into 1 week of rehearsal, and with a cast of 40 on stage to move around and choreograph for every number. Even to the point of "Wherever He Ain't" becoming more of a Roxie Hart routine with a few boys around her dancing it up like a nightclub act.
Sure some of the group numbers were very good... but would the money and time they'd have saved having 12 less people to wrangle and choreograph have allowed them time and money to focus on more important things? I think so. Did the cast need new (sometimes nice, often cheap looking) costumes for every scene they were in? No, certainly not. Nor did we need to see 25 dancers crammed on stage for all the bigger numbers.
Do I think they needed to spend time and money on projections (that sometimes didn't even match up with the scene we were in), or shooting "silent film" scenes with Rosen as Mabel (which are always going to look like bad student film if you don't have the money and know-how to really make it look good)? Not at all. Would have been better without it.

Often directing in a limited budget with a lot to achieve, part of your job is to not highlight what is lacking by getting half-way there. That's true of the costumes, the ambitious full-staging, the projections, etc.

If Thompson had built in less time for choreo and more time for acting and regular staging, I think it would have been much more successful. And I think had he just choreographed and found another director, even moreso. Maybe he had to spend way more time with his Mack than he planned, and that meant there wasn't time for everything he wanted... hell even if his Mack could do the role perfectly in his sleep, the director/choreographer of this show has a f*ck ton to do anyway, and the time this production had wasn't nearly enough even under better circumstances. So I feel for Thompson, and I give him a lot of credit for taking this on and trying. I wish I could say it worked out for the best.

Listen, I applaud the dream, I cheer the effort, I was glad also that I finally got to see some version of this show on stage.
I don't expect the production to be perfect, far from that. I was there to have a great time with a gem of a show no one gets to see or hear. But he lost me from the first scene/song. I tried to hold on after that. All through "Movies Were Movies" i thought, "this isn't the best but it's not awful, it'll be fine, it'll be good!" It was hard to hold that while also holding "why is he slurring the words? Does he know the words? Can he project? Has he sung in front of an audience before?"

Hell, if they'd had an even capable Mack... let alone a gangbusters Broadway or musical theater actor. Even a Kelsey Grammer type, who can sing well, and handle leading a piece of theater, but maybe isn't Douglas Sills vocally... great! (I know he's both too old and too famous for this presumably, just an example) I'd have been delighted and/or forgiving with the rest.
But they lost me, and everyone I went with or talked to, from the very beginning with the Mack casting and performance. It made the entire venture seem not only a mistake, but an insult to the show and the fans of it who never get to see it.
This could have *easily* been SOOOOO much better.

Bravo for the dream, the effort, the hard working cast.

I look forward to what this company does next. But I hope they learned many valuable lessons this time.
And I hope I get to see Mack and Mabel again someday.

Previous: re: MACK AND MABEL Full Production in Los Angeles - conciergekey 12:50 am EST 02/22/24
Next: Dermot Mulroney's training (re: the reports in this thread have been kind... even generous...) - Marlo*Manners 01:10 pm EST 02/23/24

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