Review / Rollicking night of ‘Pirates’

musical theatre / “The Pirates of Penzance”. Director Kelda McManus, musical director Rhys Madigan, choreographer Annette Sharpe. At Erindale Theatre until November 7. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

GILBERT and Sullivan traditionalists may raise eyebrows, but those simply seeking a nice night’s entertainment will find much to entertain in the Canberra Philharmonic Society’s rollicking new production “The Pirates of Penzance”, based on the EssGee version devised by Simon Gallaher for a hugely successful national tour in 1994.

The convoluted story remains the same. The music remains largely intact, though rearranged with updated instrumentation. Director McManus has added some refinements of her own, including bringing political correctness to the police force.

Marcus Hurley, in fine voice, is a dashing Frederick, the young apprentice pirate who, on reaching his 21st birthday, discovers that because he was born in a leap year, he is really only five. Almost persuaded to marry his delightfully buxom nurse Ruth (Kate Tricks), Frederick discovers the beauteous Mabel (Madison Lynn), which results in all sorts of complications. It is Gilbert and Sullivan, remember.

Dave Cannell steals the show as the Major General. His superb articulation and assured comic timing ensures that every word of the difficult patter songs is heard and no opportunity for a witty aside is overlooked. Shane Horsburgh however, as the flamboyant Pirate King, took some time to hit his stride on opening night.

The drabness of Peter Carmel’s imposing set works against the light mood of the show and Jennie Norberry’s costumes for the pirates are surprisingly scrappy. More attention to detail in the direction might have curbed the over-enthusiastic ensemble interpolations that too often distract from the central action. But if energetic pirate action is your bag, you’ll find it aplenty in this engaging production.  

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