Review: The Pirates Of Penzance @ WMC
I’ll start off this review by stating that there will not be any pirate dialect here. But it may try and creep inâ€¦
This operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan is one of their most popular and it’s not hard to see why. Its humour is very old-fashioned yet witty enough to stand the test of time, especially when put in the right hands. It’s the type of show I would recommend if you have never been to the opera before. It is not too overbearing operatically and half of the show is spoken dialogue. The tunes themselves are clever, catchy and quintessentially British.
The evening began with a surprise. As we had just settled into our seats, the orchestra began with the Welsh national anthem. We rose to our feet and I gave out a little moan. I just wanted the show to start, especially in the heat we have been baring. I jokingly said just after, "that was not part of the overture." My plus one noted a lady behind me sounded so good, "She should be performing on stage".
The story is simple yet silly. Frederic, a pirate’s apprentice is celebrating his 21st birthday with his posse onboard their ship (the cast brilliantly pretended to sway dramatically as if the ship was constantly turning every two minutes). Now that he is of age, he has made the decision to leave the pirate life and start anew on land, in Penzance. The plot from there on deals with love, law and leap years.
The cast really know how to do G&S. The D’Oyly Carte were the original company who staged the duo’s work. It seems that a fair bit of tax had been given back to the company. So they did what they know best, they put on a show (and a great one at that). I’m pleased to say that Frederic was preformed by Sam Furness from Cardiff (with a fair few more from Wales as well). At 26, I can see him going far as a tenor. His dashing good looks, great robust sound and comic timing will confirm this. This being the last venue for Pirates, he is shortly off to Santiago to sing as The Novice in Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd. Pity him though; Chile has its winter this time of year.
The rest of cast were superb. Steven Page as The Pirate King was slender yet domineering when he wanted to be. Ruth played by Rosie Aldridge was a near battle-axe who is quite in love with Frederic, being the only woman who has ever cast eyes on him before his departure. Graeme Broadbent playing the absolute frantic lunatic that is the Sergeant of Police was also hilarious. As for Richard Suart as Major-General Stanley he had to tackle the shows most famous and difficult number I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General. The verbal diarrhoea that occurs in this song amounts to a fiendishly problematic but always entertaining payoff. All the words barely fit into the lines of the song. It’s the type of thing you could sing as a party trick. People would be impressed by how much is verbally contained here. Suart played it with pomp and glory, as he did for the whole evening.
The sets also impressed. The tiny chapel opening the second act as the army of the general’s daughter squash inside, the vertical map of Cornwall as the overture played (with some audience members humming along), the rugged coastal shores with obligatory fake seagull. A huge print of Queen Victoria fell down from the rafters towards the end. A speech bubble had her saying, "Slave of Duty" is the alternative title for the show. Little fact for you there. Most G&S shows have them.
The audience seemed to have a really good time and if you went, you would too.
Terrrrrrific! (I couldn’t resist)