The Pirates of Penzance

Date 28th May 2015
Society Petersfield Theatre Group
Venue Petersfield Festival Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Roger Wettone
Musical Director Gareth Baynham-Hughes
Choreographer Lisa Eddy & Roger Wettone

Report

Author: JOHN W BARNES

This comic opera first performed in 1880 still manages to provide enjoyment and laughter, and the Petersfield Theatre Group did just that with their swashbuckling pirates.  This review was undertaken by me as unfortunately no Regional Representative attended.

The set design by Andy Tubbs and Roger Wettone was excellent with a background of a bay and headland of buildings curving around one edge; two blocks of “rock” to stage left and right made good hiding places, which in Act Two became “bushes” for the policemen to hide behind.  Also in Act Two, the ruined chapel walls with a tomb behind provided the right atmosphere for the location.

From the opening scene with the prow of a boat back stage left –“Rogers Revenge” (not sure if this referred to the director!) the pirates were in fine voice and their use of real swords was very impressive and well executed – but thank goodness no one was!  Conrad Stephenson (The Pirate King) looked and sounded very much the ruler of his unruly gang of pirates.  Jonathan Cole (Frederic) gave excellent renditioning of all his numbers; he fitted the age for the part and contrasted well with Sarah Dove(Ruth) and their age difference (as the characters)was good – this is sometimes overlooked -  but not this time and was believable.

The arrival of the Major General’s daughters from the auditorium led by Holly Rixon (Edith), Jayne Elsey (Kate) and Natasha Gwilliam (Isabel) together with the other daughters provided a fine contrast to the rumbustious pirates.  The change from demure maids to “naughty” ones with their colourful bathing costumes added to the party spirit.

Emily McCubbin (Mabel) gave us a good characterisation and a beautiful voice with both sweetness and light.  Mark Perry (Major General) looked every bit the part and executed the famous patter song “I am the very model of a modern Major General” with absolute gusto and good clear diction.  It was a joy to hear every word, and the same when singing it at double speed, which is no mean feat.

Some entertaining choreography for the chorus of policemen, led by Simon Stanley (Sergeant), reminded me of the Keystone Cops; when hiding behind the “bushes” in Act Two, the innovative flaps for them to show their faces was very amusing.  The use of the auditorium by the police and the pirates added to the enjoyment.

Overall this was a first class production which could have competed with any professional cast with the costumes, the acting, singing and clear diction by all the cast.  Roger Wettone’s direction was excellent and my congratulations on such a fine performance – one which I could have watched several times.

Congratulations also go to Gareth Baynham-Hughes for his musical direction and control of the orchestra - they never overpowered the singing, but ensured we could enjoy Sullivan’s score.