The Pirates of Penzance

Date 19th October 2012
Society Stevenage Lytton Players
Venue The Sishes Theatre
Type of Production Operetta
Director Dave Slade
Musical Director Derek Blyth
Choreographer Jan McGrath


Author: Vicki Avery

Of all Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas, The Pirates of Penzance has got to be one of my top favorites and I have seen many different takes on the presentation but never have I seen the Pirate King portrayed as a woman. In fact it is well documented that some women did indeed take to the sea and become very effective pirates, namely Mary Read and Anne Bonnet to name but two, so when I saw Allie Neal cast as The Pirate King I knew that the evening would prove most entertaining. The Sishes is a small venue, however, excellent use was made of the space available and provided enough space for the small company to move, performing to the audience who were seated on two sides of the stage. The Pirates, mostly female, were suitably dastardly and the comic group of policemen brought a new dimension to the show. There was some excellent singing from the principals, with a good pace and clear diction, essential for any Gilbert and Sullivan. As usual with this company, the enthusiasm and energy was apparent and everyone looked as if they were enjoying themselves. John Dunleavy as Major–General Stanley delivered his patter songs with conviction and Rachel Smith as Mabel sang with strength and feeling, (watch the breath control as the vibrato was quite evident at times) nevertheless, Poor Wand’ring One was one of the highlights of the evening. Well done with that top note. Chris Phelps as Frederic was well cast and there was admirable musicality and tone in the voice but try to relax the shoulders and smile a little more. Allie Neal as The Pirate King held total command of the stage. Never seeming to relax for a moment, we witnessed a master class in characterization. It is a shame that more men were not part of the company but nevertheless a valiant effort was made by all and if nothing else this Gilbert and Sullivan has been an excellent tool in the delivery of clear, well articulated and annunciated vocal excellence. Well done to you all. Thank you for your hospitality.