Theatre Review: Pirates of Penzance (Broadway Version)

“Pirates of Penzance” is one of the most famous and favoured of Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas.

Presented by Therry Dramatic Society
Reviewed 6 June 2019

The program says “an indeterminate time in the past” but it is difficult to figure out what the production team was aiming for! Costumes from maybe 1920’s (monochrome silent film style) with a Pirate King much more 1800’s, inconclusive first act set, art deco second act and salutes to a queen who would have been long dead! This confusion confounded by an original script which claimed Frederic’s business suit to be alarming and had the daughters being coy about taking off their shoes and stockings whilst displaying more leg than G & S would have thought decent.

Apart from all that the set was clumsy (and why did they wait until the lights were up to have the crew change the set for the second act?), the pirates looked more like a street gang and I’m still not sure about the Major-General. So visually I did not like this production, unusual for a Richard Trevaskis directed show, but vocally it was great.

Jared Frost was wonderful as Frederic, lovely characterisation and a voice to suit. Serena Martino-Williams is sweet Mabel but with just enough bite and a beautiful voice. Their duet was lovely. Chad Crittle did well as the Pirate King but could have been more swashbuckling if they had given him a sword for his big song. As Samuel, Nathan Quadrio was very much the character and showed how much his voice has improved. Ruth is very much a fun character and Vanessa Lee Shirley more than did her justice, holding her own in the duet with Frederic. The famous trio song with the King and Frederic was well done.

As the sisters Emma Haddy (Edith), Verity Colyer (Kate) and Grace Frost (Isabel) combined their voices and showed the right amount of sass. Nicholas Bishop was a commanding figure as Major-General Stanley and was in fine voice but the orchestra raced the beginning of his Modern Major-General song, which meant he lost diction too soon. Nicholas Coxhill completely nailed it as the Sergeant of Police and led an excellent ensemble in their shenanigans. In fact Konstanz Symeonakis’ choreography was quirky and fun. Mark Sandon’s orchestra was outstanding with a balanced sound just a little fast at times. Full marks also to Marty Gilbert on sound; at no point did the orchestra drown out the singers!

In conclusion, this is not the most stunning Pirates I have seen, but comes close to the best I have heard, but when you see it (and you should) look out for the cross-dressing pirates and daughters, yet another oddity! 

Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Twitter: @franeds

Venue: Arts Theatre
Season:  6-15 June 2019
Duration: 2.5 hr (including interval)
Tickets: $17 – $35

Bookings:  trybookings.com (24/7)
8410 5515 (from 12 noon ‘til late Mon-Sat)

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