A full house gave a warm welcome last night (Wednesday) to an impressive first performance in the city of the hit musical Mack & Mabel from the talented youngsters of the Musical Youth Company of Oxford, writes Chris Gray.

Penned by songwriter Jerry Herman (Mame, Hello, Dolly!, La Cage aux Folles) and wordsmith Michael Stewart, the colourful show traces the relationship of the silent movie maker Mack Sennett and his regular star Mabel Normand.

Well-drilled by director Ann Robson, the large cast showed a talent to amuse the show's larger-than-life hero himself might have admired. Certainly the right-first-time dictator would have applauded the way the wise-cracking, toe-tapping action advanced despite technical gremlins including the leading man Edward Blagrove's head-mike put temporarily out of action by a custard pie!

Young Edward's is an assured, confident portrayal of the irascible movie mogul, fully matched in star quality by Laura Beesley as his emotionally fragile leading lady.

Other fine contributions include Alan Brown's honey-voiced, tapdancing Fatty Arbuckle, Emily Cambanakis's account of outspoken actress Lottie Ames and Jack Bannell's portrait of caddish 'serious' director William Desmond Taylor.

Add such splendid setpieces as the Sennett Bathing Beauties and a slapstick outing for the Keystone Cops, and you've a real night to remember.

It's on until Saturday, April 29. Catch it if you can.