Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Directed by Kelda McManus

Musical Direction by Rhys Madigan.

Choreography by Annette Sharpe

Presented by The Canberra Philharmonic Society.

Erindale Theatre until the 7th November, 2015.

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 Gallagher for a hugely successful national tour in 1994. 

The convoluted story remains the same. The music remains largely intact, though re-arranged with updated instrumentation. Director, Kelda McManus, has added some refinements of her own, including bringing equal opportunity 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 Lymn) which results in all sorts of complications. It is Gilbert and Sullivan remember.

Dave Cannell
 as the Major General and his daughters.
Dave Cannell steals the show as the Major General. His superb articulation and assured comic timing insures that every word of the difficult patter songs is heard, and no opportunity for a witty aside is overlooked.  Shane Horsburg 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 which too often distract from the central action. But if energetic pirate action is your bag, you’ll find it aplenty in this engaging production. 

This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 23.10.15. It is also in the print edition published 28.10.15. 

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