American actress Rebecca LaChance has an English adventure at Chichester Festival Theatre

Michael Ball and Rebecca LaChance in rehearsals. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Michael Ball and Rebecca LaChance in rehearsals. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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It’s not just Rebecca LaChance’s first time at Chichester Festival Theatre. It’s actually her first time in England.

And so far, so good.

Rebecca LaChance in rehearsals. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Rebecca LaChance in rehearsals. Photo by Manuel Harlan

“I would say that maybe putting a show together is the same wherever you are in the world, but maybe it’s a little bit more laid back over here,” says Rebecca who is Mabel in Mack and Mabel at the CFT opposite Michael Ball until September 5

“They have tea breaks in rehearsals! It’s great. It’s really delightful when they say ‘Time for tea now!’ That’s just such an English thing!”

Rebecca arrived in the UK at the end of May and will spend the rest of the year here, touring with the show, after its Chichester stint, through the autumn.

“London (where she rehearsed) has been absolutely brilliant. There is so much to do. I have going to a lot of theatre and doing all the touristy things. I am a little bit homesick, but the whole thing is just such an exciting adventure.

“I got a call in February about the auditions for the show, and I had a couple of auditions in New York. My last call back Michael and (director) Jonathan (Church) came over.

“It wasn’t a show I knew. One of the songs has been in my audition repertoire for a year, but I had no idea really what the show was all about. It was a big learning curve when I was given all the material to learn.

“The first thing people say (back home), if they have heard of Mack & Mabel at all, is that it doesn’t get done very often. I think probably it gets done a bit more over here. I think there have been a few more revivals, but really for me it is something very new and exciting.”

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.

The piece is set against the background of the early days of film. Helped by heroes in capes, and girls tied to the tracks, the pioneers in the industry made stars out of street kids and riches from rags.

But for writer, director, producer and owner of Keystone Motion Picture Studios Mack Sennett, forging a film is the easy part – compared to working, and falling in love, with a stunning one-off like Mabel.

“Mabel is incredibly charming,” Rebecca says. “She is full of life and full of energy. For Mack, the real thing is that she presents a challenge in a way no one else has. He is always quite demanding. He is bellowing at me and yelling and quite gruff. But Mabel stands up to that.

“When you watch the movies, she had such a natural star quality. It was just so easy for her!”

Rebecca is loving it over here: “What I have discovered is that everyone in the cast is lovely, and everyone I meet is very open and generous and kind. But maybe I find the people in England are a bit more stand-offish generally. If I was alone in New York, I could find that I could just get chatting to someone in the park, just small talk, but it is a bit different here. The social interactions are not the same. I find myself a bit more on my own over here, but not in a tragic way! I suppose I am still getting to know people, and I am still making friends.”

Visit www.cft.org.uk.

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