Review: The Pirates of Penzance

5 star rating
Soft-hearted pirates again fetch-up at Wilton's Music Hall in Sasha Regan's brilliantly directed and unmissable all-male version of Gilbert and Sullivan's still-popular hit.
The Pirates of Penzance at Wilton's Music Hall

Photo by Scott Rylander



Closes here: Saturday 16 March 2019

Author:
W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

Director:
Sasha Regan

Cast:

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:

Daniel Miles

Adrian Bevan

Tom Duern

Patrick Coulter

Matthew Facchino

Jamie Chidzey

Kyle Anthony


Synopsis


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.


Background


Winner of 'Best Off-West End Production' 2010 - What's On Stage Awards.

ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Tuesday 26 February 2019
Review star rating image

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.



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