Review: The Pirates of Penzance
Photo by Scott Rylander
Tom Bales as Mabel
Tom Senior as Frederic
Alan Richardson as Ruth
James Thackeray as The Pirate King
David McKechnie as Major General
Duncan Sandilands as Sergeant of Police
Benjamin Vivian-Jones as Samuel
Sam Kipling as Edith
Connor Hughes as Kate
Richard Russell Edwards as Connie
Dominic Harbison as Isabel
The ensemble company is completed by:
The award-winning and exquisitely funny new take on the much-loved classic The Pirates of Penzance makes a welcome return to these shores after a huge critical and popular hit in Australia, when it landed in Cate Blanchett's Sydney Theatre after a national tour.
The tale of a child apprenticed to a band of tender-hearted, orphaned pirates was an immediate triumph for Gilbert and Sullivan and remains their most popular and successful work.
Winner of 'Best Off-West End Production' 2010 - What's On Stage Awards.
First performed back in 2009, this all male version of Gilbert and Sullivan's hit comic opera, directed by Sasha Regan, proves that the original vehicle and this modern interpretation of it both have considerable and well-deserved longevity.
It might be hard to believe that the premier of The Pirates of Penzance took place back in 1879, since it still has an invigorating freshness to it with innate comic appeal.
The story focuses on Frederic (commendably played here by Tom Senior) who has (he thinks) just completed his apprenticeship with a band of rather soft-hearted pirates who can't bear the thought of stealing from orphans.
That effectively means they are easily duped by any of their potential victims into letting them go.
Frederic, now free of his indenture, is ready to do his duty and work against the pirates whose trade he loathes.
However, his interest is diverted when he meets Tom Bales' Mabel and instantly falls in love.
Romantic bliss is cut short, though, when Frederic discovers he is leap-year born and so still has numerous years of service in store to complete his contractual obligations with the pirates.
The real key to the success of this version of Gilbert and Sullivan's enduring hit formula is that director Sasha Regan brilliantly keeps everything on an even keel by playing all the parts pretty-much 'straight', rather than opting for a 'camp' style of performance - and it works a treat.
On top of that, there's plenty of room in the (admittedly rather daft) storyline for numerous touches of humour.
But Sasha Regan keeps a deft reign on proceedings, naturally extracting the humour without drifting into the territory of milking the enterprise dry and thereby avoiding steering it over the Cornish cliffs.
And that makes for some lovely touches, for example when two of the 'maidens' vie
for male attention by dropping their hankies, or when there's a drawn-out and very funny reaction to the word "plain", or when a girl who has fainted to the floor is slowly (and almost invisibly) dragged back into her group.
It's not just the humour, though, that makes this a hugely enjoyable and entertaining show.
Sir Arthur Sullivan's score bristles with thoroughly engaging and sometimes very beautiful tunes, and remains wholly accessible, even if the style might seem a little alien in comparison with the kind of modern musicals many people will be more familiar with.
Musical director Richard Baker also deserves considerable praise for his tight yet enabling control of the musical aspects of the endeavour, but he's significantly aided by scrumptious singing from the entire company that adeptly tops-off a delightful and appealing production.
Great songs, great cast and great direction make for an unmissable show.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Wilton's Music Hall
Our show listing for The Pirates of Penzance
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