The prospect of Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most acclaimed comic operettas, is mouth-watering for lovers of musical theatre. The delicious G&S cocktail of equal parts action, romance, parody and pirates (yay!) is almost irresistible. Sasha Regan’s touring production – direct from London – finds a way to heighten the experience even further – with an all male cast.
Billed as ‘all things musical, comedy, and high camp’ – this production does not disappoint. Oozing with charisma from the outset, Regan’s interpretation of the comic classic is innovative and refreshing while always maintaining respect for the script and the score.
The nature of the production demands high energy levels and cast commitment. Regan has wonderfully rallied her all male cast to ensure unfaltering energy from go to whoa. This enthusiasm ensures the audiences’ unwavering attention from the introduction of the Chorus of Pirates, uniquely clad in simple yet undeniably camp costumes (designed by Robyn Wilson-Owen), through the love story of Frederic (Matthew Gent) and Mabel (Alan Richardson), and culminating with the enjoyable ensemble finale.
[pull_left]Oozing with charisma from the outset, Regan’s interpretation of the comic classic is innovative and refreshing while always maintaining respect for the script and the score[/pull_left]
If the energy and the story isn’t enough to keep you occupied – the ‘female’ characters will. The rapturous applause and laughter that followed the introduction of each female character was astounding. Ruth (Joseph Houston), the crowd favourite, was awkwardly feminine, and the studied mannerisms of the quartet of sisters (Dale Page, Stewart Charlesworth, Lee Greenaway, and Chris Theo Cook) were expertly comical. To enhance the comic effect an additional sister was added – but who can blame them?
It was Mable however, who stole the show. Alan Richardson’s portrayal of the ‘soprano’ sister was absolutely incredible. His outstanding vocal control not only allowed musically correct but enjoyable, successful and even beautiful male renditions of difficult numbers like ‘Poor Wandering One’. For me, the success of this production of Pirate of Penzance must be hinged on the success of Mable; and Alan Richardson is a success.
Of course the ‘females’ steal the show, however the whole ensemble is tremendous. Matthew Gent’s Frederic interacts wonderfully with Mable (and the timbre of his tenor interacts fascinatingly with ‘her’ soprano). The Sergeant of Police (Adam Vaughan) and his chorus were hilarious. The creative combination of baton/moustache is a stroke of genius by Regan and thoroughly enhanced the production.
Compared with previous productions, the roles of the Pirate King (Nic Gibney) and the Major General (Neal Moors) were very understated. Perhaps the lack of individual microphones detracts from their comic impact. This is most acutely obvious in the patter song ‘I am the model of a modern Major-General’. The lyrics are wonderful, but I fear the audience poorly comprehended them.
As in is the case in many touring productions, the set (Robyn Wilson-Owen) and the lighting design (Steve Miller) are very simple. Both are expertly utilised to enhance the production, and combined with the Regan’s direction, Lizzi Gee’s choreography and a cast of extremely talented young men, the final product is outstanding.
This energetic, fun and family friendly incarnation of Pirates of Penzance is a raging success. It truly is a shame that it was only in Adelaide for one day! Next stops Perth, Wollongong and Sydney.