Smith and company (including choreographer Baayork Lee, of the original A Chorus Line) are using a script revised by the late Stewart's sister, Francine Pascal. This version of the script has been seen regionally and in London.
Smith's Shaw staging presents the musical's silent film sequences live, with black-and-white costumes.
Previews began April 3 at the Festival Theatre, the flagship house of the festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
"Out of the silent movie era and the heady heights of 1920s Hollywood, Mack and Mabel chronicles a heart-wrenching love story in a series of flashbacks," according to festival notes. "Mack reminisces about his career from the sound stage of the studios he once dominated, beginning with the glory days of the Keystone Studios in 1910 when he first discovered Mabel, to his invention of the Keystone Cops – an iconic image often affiliated with silent-film comedy. Their tempestuous relationship continued throughout the years as each suffered both personal and professional highs and lows."
The cast includes Benedict Campbell as the legendary Mack Sennett and Glynis Ranney as film legend Mabel Normand, with Kawa Ada, Neil Barclay, Catherine Braund, Benedict Campbell, Katrina Reynolds, Jeff Irving, Patty Jamieson, Melanie Janzen, Jane Johanson, Gabrielle Jones, Chilina Kennedy, Jeff Madden, Peter Millard, Mike Nadajewski, Melanie Phillipson, Micheal Querin, Glynis Ranney, Kiera Sangster, Devon Tullock, Jay Turvey, Mark Uhre and William Vickers. The Mack and Mabel creative team includes designer William Schmuck, musical director Paul Sportelli, lighting designer Jock Munro and sound designer John Lott.
Performances continue in rep to Oct. 29.
Composer-lyricist Jerry Herman's score boasts "I Won't Send Roses," "Look What Happened to Mabel" and "Tap Your Troubles Away." A Broadway flop, the show nevertheless has a score cherished by fans (an original cast album spread the gospel of the songs, as did a 1990s London disc).
A major commercial revival in the U.S. has yet to transpire, despite a high-profile Los Angeles concert staging and a revival by Goodspeed Musicals. The show's uneasy mix of melodic, upbeat tunes and the professional and personal sourness/sadness of the characters has long bedeviled directors and frustrated audiences.
For more information, visit www.shawfest.com.