Traditional Pirates Romp Through Blue Mountains
Blue Mountains Musical Society (NSW) farewells its traditional home at Springwood with a nostalgic G & S production, The Pirates of Penzance. Stage Whispers reviewer and reporter, and Pirates cast member, Sally Alrich-Smythe, reports.
Hidden away in a community civic centre in the lower Blue Mountains is the home of a passionate, tight-knit theatre family who are bursting at the seams with swash-buckling energy. The Pirates of Penzance is their latest project, following three successful seasons of Grease (2012), Beauty and The Beast (2011) and the world premiere of Morgan’s Run (2011). With new development plans on the way, the Society wished to give one last hurrah to the centre they’ve inhabited for more than 31 years now, and what better way to do it than to return, for the third time, to a traditional take on Gilbert Sullivan’s classic masterpiece?
The show - enjoying a three-weekend-long run from October 20th to November 4th - is under the direction of Ray Harding, with musical direction of from son, Jem Harding. Nostalgic for the ‘pre- Jon English’ era, it is in the Hardings’ wishes to create a traditional take on the show, reflective of the original intentions of Gilbert and Sullivan. The costuming, basic (but effective) style of sets and props, the score, and the performing in general, will reflect this long-forgotten approach.
This is not to suggest that the cast is not rich in originality and freshness, however. Certainly, each and every member seem to have something new and distinctly their own to deliver to the show. Luke John Spiteri, the ‘Pirate King’, seems as though he has stepped straight off a pirate ship, with his bushy hair and beard. The gymnast that he is, it is hard to take one’s eyes off him as he bounces across the stage. His opposition, Zach Jones as the ‘Sergeant of Police’, another physical performer, has much the same effect. Alongside them in other supporting lead roles, Virginia Fortunat as ‘Ruth’, Anthony Gilchrist as ‘Major General Stanley’, and each of the sisters, carry the show with well-trained and competent singing.
Sure to fill one’s ears with pitch-perfect and emotion-filled melodies, are, of course, Mabel and Frederic. Marisa-Clare Berzins’ (Mabel) strong, un-quivering voice is a stand-out, and is accompanied by a comical but never over the top, acting style. It comes as no surprise that she has been performing since the age of five. Alex Jeans (Frederic) on the other hand, only first tried his hand at musical theatre when he was halfway through high-school, not that anyone could have guessed. No longer the testosterone filled, mooning rascal that was ‘Roger’ in Grease, Jeans excels in this more sombre role (well, as sombre as G & S can get!).
An active ensemble of all ages serves the delightful choreography designed by the Saunders sisters - Kate and Lara - well. Pirates and Policemen alike, the cast put everything they have into their given roles, so that the only problem an audience member should have is a question of who to look at first.
Moving outside of this particular show, I would like to stress the talent that always shows itself during a Blue Mountains Musical Society performance. It is a group that deserves more exposure and recognition for what it is, but one that has never been disheartened by its unfortunately small venue (which hopefully soon will change). There is a very dedicated arts and performance scene in the Blue Mountains, and so it is no accident that the society enjoys utmost passion and skill.
Want to experience it yourself? Why not join them in their next musical? Come along to the information night for next season’s production of Sweeney Todd, on the 15th of November at 7:30pm. This will be the society’s first show at Q Theatre, in Penrith’s Joan Sutherland Centre.