Goodspeed's newly-public 2004 season will conclude Oct. 1-Dec. 12 with the revised revival of Mack & Mabel, the 1974 musical about silent movie creators Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. Herman will be in East Haddam to be a part of the development of the first major American production using the revised script by Francine Pascal, the sister of the late original librettist, Michael Stewart.
Composer-lyricist Herman (Hello, Dolly!, Mame, La Cage aux Folles) told Playbill On-Line that, at the moment, he and his team are trying to focus on the Goodspeed Opera House production rather than a future on Broadway, but admitted they can't help hoping the not-for-profit Connecticut staging leads to a major tour and/or to Broadway.
"That's always our hope, to be honest with you," Herman said.
Arthur Allan Seidelman will direct, Dan Siretta will choreograph and Jon Wilner remains attached to the project as the producer of a potential commercial future. Various plans to bring the show to Broadway in recent seasons did not materialize.
"Jon Wilner is the godfather of Mack & Mabel," Herman said. "He has devoted a great deal of his life to making sure it gets seen. I'm very grateful to him." Past criticism of the show was that the dark nature of its romance and the brassy numbers pulled focus from the title characters. At the intimate Goodspeed, which seats 398, things will be clearer, Herman said.
"[Mack & Mabel] has always been a great love story that has been dwarfed by all the wild production numbers that I've written," Herman admitted. "At Goodspeed, there'll be no lack of those production numbers, but because of the size of the theatre, the focus will be on Mack and Mabel, as never before. They won't be two characters lost in a sea of Keystone Kops. It's about a man who's in love with a girl yet doesn't know how to express that until a crisis happens to the girl."
Herman said he doesn't expect major revisions in the fall rehearsal process. The revised show has been tested in concert situations and in a London production in 1995.
Is it a musical docudrama, or a truth-inspired fable along the lines of Gypsy?
"It's a showbiz fable," Herman explained. "We use famous people and a great deal of truth, but the fable makes for the theatrics. If we told the honest story, Mabel Normand, after her affair with Mack Sennett, married Lew Cody Jr. and lived with him for seven years. Now, that would be no kind of ending for this musical. I would have to call it Mack, Mabel and Lew. We're inspired by the truth and these people, and we wrap theatrics around it. Gypsy is a complete fable."
The new version includes "Mabel and Mack," a song heard in the London staging, and "Hit 'Em on the Head."
This version of the script and score will be the official Mack & Mabel for future stock and amateur licensing, Herman said.
What is Francine Pascal's major contribution to the project?
"She's made a cohesive piece out of a script that had wonderful, wonderful moments in it but never really hung together," Herman said. "She's turned an interesting story into an interesting love story. You get to know them better, and you seem them happy together, which is a major difference. In the original, they started yelling at each other early in Act One and there wasn't anyplace to go."
The score of the onetime Broadway flop is known to fans via its cast album, which had Bernadette Peters, Robert Preston and Lisa Kirk singing such tunes as "Tap Your Troubles Away," "Time Heals Everything," "Big Time," "I Won't Send Roses," "Hundreds of Girls," "Movies Were Movies," "When Mabel Comes in the Room," "Wherever He Aint" and "Look What Happened to Mabel."
The 2004 Goodspeed Musicals mainstage season also includes Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam, directed and choreographed by James Brennan, April 16- July 3; and Frank Loesser's musical version of Charley's Aunt, Where’s Charley?, directed by Tony Walton, July 9- Sept. 25.
Previously announced for Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, is a new musical using Elvis Presley tunes, All Shook Up, with book by Joe DiPietro, May 13-June 6. The Terris is reserved for new and developing shows. Critics are not invited, though ticketbuyers are.
For Goodspeed Musicals information, call (860) 873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.