Mack and Mabel and Me

How remiss of me… over a month since my last blog but life has suddenly gone from cruise to race in the course of the last few weeks.
The most exciting news is that I am going to be performing the role of Lottie Ames in Southwark Playhouse‘s upcoming production of “Mack and Mabel“, Jerry Herman‘s joyous Broadway show about the legendary Mack Sennett and his star Mabel Normand.
Mack and Mabel Original Broadway Album
As my blog title hints, I have quite a bit of history with this show. As a teenager singing with my father in various clubs and hotels, part of the remit was to sing show tunes on a loop. For the punters’ sake we would pump out the obligatory Rodgers and Hammerstein, a bit of Andrew Lloyd Webber, but for our own pleasure we would throw in a song or two from ‘Mack and Mabel’…Dad would sing and play “I Won’t Send Roses” and my showstopper was always ‘Wherever He Ain’t’. At that time “Mack and Mabel” had cult status as the big Broadway musical that had never been performed in the UK. I had an LP with an iconic red cover and pictures of the show’s stars Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters on the back which I listened to repeatedly. Unlike the mental pictures I conjured up when I sang along to my “Oliver” or “Sound of Music” soundtracks, I had no context with which to cast myself in an imaginary setting when I sang along to “Look What Happened to Mabel”. All I knew was that they were cracking great Broadway tunes.
Fast forward to many years later and I have earned my musical theatre stripes playing Sally Smith in “Me and My Girl”. The rumours are that there is to be a major production of “Mack and Mabel” in the U.K. I get excited. The casting is announced. No it’s not me… it’s the very talented Caroline O’Connor for whom this will be a break through role, cast as Mabel. I am gutted as I’m sure most of my ingenue peers of the time were, that the dream role was not up for grabs. I put it behind me.
In the meantime my father, who had enjoyed perfect health nearly all of his life, was diagnosed with cancer. Showbusiness ambitions were not a priority as our family made regular visits to the hospital, wondering if he would ever come out.
My agent called one day and said she had some news which might lift my spirits. Caroline O’Connor was having a three week break from the show to get married in Australia and the management had asked if I would step in to play the role of Mabel for that period.

So followed one of the most joyous and saddest times of my life. My dad was thrilled that I was going to be playing a lead in a West End musical, I told him a week or so before he passed away and the day after his funeral I began rehearsals for the part.

Well here I am, many years later with a few more show business miles on the clock. I have just finished the first day of rehearsals for the Southwark Playhouse production of ‘Mack and Mabel’ playing the part of hard boiled, tart with a heart, Lottie Ames. Laura Pitt-Pulford is Mabel. I worked with her when she played Betty Schaeffer in ‘Sunset Boulevard‘. She’s going to be fabulous. Norman Bowman is Mack and we have an innovative young creative team and cast who are going to make this ‘Mack and Mabel’ relevant and exciting to a whole new audience.

About Jessica

Jessica Martin is a multi-talented performer whose career has taken her from comedy impressionist to musical theatre leading lady and scriptwriter.
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