Friday, October 23, 2015


Music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert
Directed by Kelda McManus
Music Direction by Rhys Madigan
Essgee Entertainment version
Erindale Theatre
Canberra Philharmonic Society to 7 November
Review by Len Power 22 October 2015

One of Gilbert and Sullivan’s perennial favourites, ‘The Pirates Of Penzance’, was first performed in 1879.  In 1991, Australia’s Simon Gallaher produced a new version of the show with changes to structure and content to make it more appealing to modern audiences.  It worked and this is the version presented by Canberra Philharmonic.

The major appeal of that Simon Gallaher production in 1991 was the sense of fun involving the audience, often satirising the work and the operetta genre itself.  Philo’s production misses a lot of the satirical opportunities and plays like a standard version of the show.

There is some fine singing in the show, especially in the big chorus numbers.  Marcus Hurley is a fine matinee idol Frederic, singing well and acting with a good understanding of the operetta style required for this show.  Maddison Lymn is a pretty Mabel with a good voice but Shane Horsburgh isn’t strong enough vocally to meet the demands of his role as the Pirate King.

David Cannell steals the show as Major-General Stanley.  His updated lyrics, with references to social media and current Australian politicians, were a highlight and the production needed more of this to make it the satirical romp it should be.

There were nice performances  from Greg Sollis as the Sergeant Of Police, Kate Tricks as Ruth and Karyn Tisdell, Esther Ramsay and Deanna Gibbs as the three daughters.  With the majority of the cast in traditional costume and playing in a melodramatic style, the decision to present the daughters as a 1950s style singing trio just didn’t work.

The orchestra was a bit shaky to start with but for the rest of the show played the music well.  Sound balance was good between singers and orchestra.  Peter Karmel’s set with its revolve worked very well and the lighting design by Liam Ashton added a good atmosphere.  The traditional choreography by Annette Sharpe was fine and was danced well by the cast.

Kelda McManus’s production seemed to sparkle more in the second act than the first.  It needed more satirical punch to be completely successful but there was still plenty here to enjoy.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program at 9am on Saturdays.

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