Occasionally in theatre and film, someone will appear and everything else pales in comparison. That is Emily Celeste Fink, who effortlessly commands the CCM stage as Mabel Normand in Mack and Mabel, playing only through March 5 at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium.
Mack and Mabel is a bittersweet love story that explores the highs and lows of the Golden Age of Comedy, focusing on the tumultuous relationship between director Mack Sennett (who created the Keystone Kops) and his star, Mabel Normand. Mack narrates the story, from his first encounter with Mabel, to their love story, and their missteps in between.
In the play, Mabel accidentally comes on set as a sandwich seller, instantly capturing the focus of the film crew. Mack immediately signs her. When performer Fink enters the stage, you immediately know she is going to have a powerful career as an entertainer. If she was an NCAA basketball player she would sign early with the NBA. She starts big with “Looks What Happened to Mabel,” and hammers it home in “Wherever He Ain’t, ” the memorable and difficult “Time Heals Everything” and, of course “When Mabel Comes in the Room.” Fink has a rich voice and the power to belt. She also has charm, charisma, and an effortless joy in performing for you. Her multidimensional portrayal makes other performers pale in comparison, and with the rich talents of all CCM students, that is hard to do. Alex Stone as Mack Sennett has one of the best voices of the evening. Kyra Christopher as Lottie, is a great hoofer, with the subtlety of Jinkx Monsoon. The chorus is filled with talented, singers, dancers, and actors of every shape and size selling it, however, it is not ethnically diverse. They beautifully perform the choreography by Patti James, in a variety of dance styles, and sound great due to musical direction by CCM graduate student Evan Roider.
The costumes are another star of the evening. So many rich, beautifully cut, luxurious clothes! My favorite could be the top of the Second Act, but the hits keep coming! From the tap outfits to the kimonos to the suits—Costume Designer Reba Senske shows the phenomenal talent of the CCM Faculty Staff, and student workers.
CCM’s seamless delivery of scenery (as well as the musicians) is always exciting, adding to the magic of the evening. Thanks to Mark Halpin, scenic designer, the set is an appropriately ancient sound stage, with multiple beautiful pieces flying in from above and below, including beautiful Art Deco draperies and accessories.
Director Aubrey Berg ties all this talent together and brings out the best of this musical, which has strengths and flaws as written by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Michael Stewart (book). Inherently it proceeds in a series of starts and stops for the video clips, which aren’t as clear or as funny as they used to be. (Reflecting the relationships of Mark and Mabel, as a series of stops and starts and not what it used to be?) It also ends too abruptly, finishing one story, but not the other (perhaps one more slide with Mack’s dates on it could have made it feel more complete.) These are not reasons to keep you away.
Get your tickets TODAY to Mack and Mabel: http://CCM.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/mack-and-mabel