Friday, February 27, 2009














THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

CAODS at the Civic Theatre

25.02.09


This “new” Broadway re-working is now nearly thirty years old. It belongs with the flamboyant musicals of the eighties, and as such still has the power to set the stage alight.

Purists would concede that little has changed – a couple of numbers inserted from other Savoy operas, and a few extra routines. Gilbert's jokes survive better than Sullivan's music, put through the Broadway blender and synthesised into submission.

Ray Jeffery's lively production made the most of the big numbers, the Act I finale, for instance, or the silliest policemen I ever saw. The reprise of Catlike Tread was also very effectively done. Only occasionally did I feel that swordplay and shouting were doing duty for style, or decibels for diction. Crystal clear always were Patrick Tucker's Major General, and Jonathan Davis in the swashbuckling Tim Curry role of Pirate King.

Thomas Harper was a likeable, hip-swivelling romantic lead, with Christie Hooper in the vocally demanding role of Mabel, his beloved. Splendid character work from Patrick Gallagher as the Police Sergeant, and Jenny Hockley as the spurned Ruth – though she did get to join the pirate ranks later on. Both pirates and police were equal opportunities employers, and the chorus boys and girls were kept busy with loads of imaginative and amusing business.

The Musical Director was John Trent Wallace.







Photography by Christopher Yorke-Edwards

1 comment:

John Richardson said...

Just back from my blue rinse brigade and fidgety youngsters session at 'Pirates'

The chorus were well drilled and enthusiastic, and chorus groupings, as ever with a Ray Jeffrey production, very good and serving as a reminder of the window dresser stage of his career !
Costumes, settings and lighting were excellent and would not have disgraced the West End stage .. apart maybe from one recalcitrant piece, a 'rock' flat that hesitated to stay upright !

I was impressed with Frederic who moved so fluently and was eminently watchable .. while he was vocally not as strong in this basically
'classical' piece his diction was clear and easily understood.

Bravo to Patrick Tucker (Major General) for his impeccable diction.

Ruth, however, was much more difficult to follow, relying more on plummy sound than making sure we understood the words.

Sound, however, was a problem for me. Chorus not miked but principals were and when they were singing together this gave an amplified metallic tone which didn't ring true. Mabel has such a strong voice she did not need amplification which made for imbalance in her duet with Frederic (Tom Harper). Whoever is in charge of monitoring sound at the Civic does not have the finesse required .. and by Saturday matinee after 5 performances it should have been 'solved'. It sounded as if it was a case of 'if it's on it's on' !

I am by no means a G & S 'purist' and don't mind when these war-horses are 'doctored' BUT when there was a large male chorus I did not see the point of boosting numbers by 'cross-dressing' the pirates opening chorus. My major whinge is when it happened with the police force - why on earth dress some of the girls in St Trinians garb, which added nothing ?

The 'Pirates' fight went on interminably AND it annoyed me that the shouts and hollers from the chorus drowned out the orchestra. And the female chorus did the same in their number with Frederic. And what was that all about ? The song in question was Frederic's 'Is there not one ?' to which the response is 'no, no, not one' yet there they were all over him ...

And from the gripes to my personal highlight. This was 'Hail Poetry', resoundingly sung and wholly still in contrast to the energetic numbers that had gone before !

The show was certainly easy on the eye .. I just didn't come out totally bowled over.

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