The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance
Book and lyrics by WS Gilbert. Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Sydney. Smith Auditorium, Shore School, North Sydney. Oct 7- 9, 2022.

A whopping 34-piece orchestra under the baton of Rod Mounjed set the tone with a lush ten-minute overture that featured a crashing symbol and piercing brass, which refreshed the audience like a gentle wave of surf at a beach near Penzance.

This was a night of comic opera in a production style of the work as originally written in 1879 with all the trimmings.

The curtain opened to a backdrop of the English seashore and onto the stage came the band of rollicking Pirates.

Director and choreographer Elizabeth Lowrencev successfully blended talented young students, largely from the Conservatorium of Music, with more mature choristers.

The standout star was Tobias Page as the Pirate King. He swaggered snuggly into the tightest of leather pants – channelling Jon English - and impressed with his booming bass-baritone voice.

Fellow student John L’Estrange as Frederic engaged the audience with his acting and tenor singing alongside a swashbuckling William Papantoniou as Samuel.

Excellent diction was a feature of this production, allowing members of the audience not familiar with the work to laugh at the gags penned 140 years ago.

There were two updates to the script with a quick nod to the pandemic and I hungered for a few more.

Jane Van Balen as Ruth and Andrew Pennycuick as the Major-General gave masterclasses in singing with clarity.

The entrance of the ladies of the chorus saw the sumptuous display of floral dresses designed by Sandi Tutt in full flight. They reacted with suitable enchantment at the arrival of the “21-year-old” Pirate into their midst and then disdain when he insulted them, preparing for the entrance of soprano Suzanne Chin as Mabel - who crisply hit the high notes in “Poor Wandering One”. 

A highlight of the second act is the arrival of the police and a fleet of foot ‘hoofer’ Oskar Loofs impressed with his performance as the Sergeant.

A few opening night gremlins snuck in with some mishaps during the bows, and twice the conductor had to sing some lyrics from the pit to bring the cast back in time with the orchestra. But overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable night in the theatre.

David Spicer

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