As previously tipped (See The Goss, 23 Jun 2005), Mack and Mabel - starring Olivier Award winner Janie Dee and Starsky and Hutch’s David Soul – will transfer to the West End at the end of its current UK tour (See News, 1 Nov 2005). The production will open at the Criterion Theatre on 10 April 2006 (previews from 5 April), where it’s booking to 22 July 2006.

The Watermill Theatre’s revival of the 1974 musical first played at the Newbury venue in summer 2005, with Anna-Jane Casey as Mabel, the role now played by Dee, and Soul being described as “the best Mack I’ve ever seen” by the musical’s octogenarian composer Jerry Herman (the man behind Hello Dolly, Mame and La Cage Aux Folles). The current tour launched at the Theatre Royal Bath on 24 January 2006, and will continue until 25 March 2006, before coming to London.

Out of the silent movie era and the heady heights of 1920s Hollywood, Mack and Mabel tells the love story of two of director Mack Sennett, “the king of comedy”, and his star, comedienne Mabel Normand. Together they bring magic to the silver screen. Yet ambition, dalliance and the impending threat of changing times make for a tempestuous relationship. The score includes "Look What Happened to Mabel", "I Won’t Send Roses", "Time Heals Everything" "Hundreds of Girls" and "Tap Your Troubles Away".

Soul was last seen in the West End as the American chat show host in Jerry Springer - The Opera. Dee’s many musical credits include Cats, Carousel (for which she won her first Olivier), My One and Only, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music and South Pacific. She’s also been seen in the plays Between the Lines, Design for Living, Betrayal, Much Ado About Nothing and, in 2000, Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential for which she won Best Actress accolades at the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards before the comedy’s New York transfer.

Mack and Mabel is part of the Watermill’s series of successful actor/musician productions, directed by John Doyle with musical arrangements and direction by Sarah Travis, including a revival of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, which won two Awards (for Best Musical Revival and Best Ensemble Performance) during its West End season and transferred to Broadway before returning to the UK this week for a tour starring Jason Donovan (See News, 27 Dec 2005)

Mack and Mabel premiered on Broadway in 1974, starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters, and was seen at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre in 1995 with Howard McGillin and Caroline O'Connor. The musical has a book by Michael Stewart and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, with revisions by Francine Pascal.

Otherwise Engaged, which closed at the Criterion this past weekend (See News, 4 Jan 2006), was nominated for two Theatregoers’ Choice Awards – winning Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Head. No productions have been announced for the interim.

- by Caroline Ansdell