Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre

Michael Ball plays Hollywood director Mack Sennett in Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre. Picture: Manuel Harlan
Michael Ball plays Hollywood director Mack Sennett in Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre. Picture: Manuel Harlan
Promise and Promiscuity

REVIEW: Promise & Promiscuity at The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham

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Olivier Award-winner Michael Ball pressed for the CFT to stage Sweeney Todd four years ago.

He’s hoping for similar success with Mack & Mabel which he’s championed for this year’s summer season (July 13-September 5).

Based on the true romance between Hollywood legends Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, Mack & Mabel received eight Tony Award nominations when it opened on Broadway in 1974. But somehow it hasn’t secured the status it should have done.

As Michael says: ‘I have always been curious how it never enjoyed the success it ought to have had. It has got the most brilliant musical score and exciting true story behind it about when the cinema was being created.

‘This guy Mack was one of the pioneers. He was an amazing character, and it’s the story of his love for Mabel, this big star he created. His problem was his obsession with film-making…

‘He is this incredibly-charismatic figure. He is a bully. He is driven. He is focused. He can be a bit of a b*****d, like some people I have worked with.’

He gave Charlie Chaplin his start. He gave Fatty Arbuckle his start. All the great names we know are his creation.

Michael Ball on playing Mack Sennett

Oh yes, who? ‘Like I am going to tell you!’ Michael laughs. ‘I might want to work with them again! But he is just a fascinating, powerful man. And he is very, very funny. He created the movie comedy. He gave Charlie Chaplin his start. He gave Fatty Arbuckle his start. All the great names we know are his creation. Cinema owes this man a huge debt, and this is his story.’

And yet there proved to be an obstacle between the show Mack & Mabel and the success Michael feels the show deserved.

‘The show was a success on Broadway in 1974, but at the time people could not really accept the sad ending. Ever since, people have tried to thrust a happy ending on the show, but I think the show works as it is.’

Tickets: from £10, visit cft.org.uk or call 01243 781 312.