“The Pirates Of Penzance” by People’s Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre
Nottingham Arts Theatre
Also lesser known as “The Slave Of Duty” this comic opera, with lyrics by W S Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan is all about Frederic, who having reached the ripe old age of 21 is released from his apprenticeship from a group of pirates. He meets Mabel, who is the daughter of Major-General Stanley and guess what?... Yes you guessed correct, they fall in love.
Now Frederic’s birthday just happens to fall on 29 February which makes him a leap year baby. This also means that technically he only gets a Birthday every four years. The contract with the pirates state that he has to remain apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st Birthday. This of course means that he won’t be released from the apprenticeship until he has served another 63 years. Frederic finds solace in the fact though that Mabel has said that she will wait for him……
Playing our apprentice pirate is Andrew Rushton, who has a list of G&S classics, as well as other opera favourites under his belt, so a perfect choice as Frederic. He looks the part of a pirate as well.
Mabel, played by Jenny Ashworth, had a lovely voice, if only I could have heard it properly, and I was only sat four rows from the front. Nor sure if Jenny was a little nervous, as this was her Nottingham debut. Jenny has a history of singing in choirs and has been part of several G&S productions but I just wanted to hear that power in her very pure voice, and I didn't get a lot of it. What i did hear though, I loved. Mic that woman up Mr Director!
The Modern Major General Stanley is played by David Lovell. Now here's a man with projection. I heard every word he uttered. His major song, if you'll pardon the pun, was of course the wonderful tongue twisty "I Am the Very Model Of A Modern Major General". A couple of snatched breaths which broke the fluidity of the song, but that is a difficult song to perform and David did it proud.
Directed by Meng Khaw who also played The Pirate King. I knew that this role was in safe hands with Meng. Lovely tone to his voice and some lovely comedy characterisation in this role. As a Director, he kept it pacy and made sure that the comedy was upfront, almost panto-esque, which suited this piece of theatre, and G&S's wordy script so well.
Samuel, The Pirate King's right hand man, was played by PTC regular, Richard Fife. A fun role for Richard to indulge in.
Ruth is played by Jackie Tivers, She has grown up with G&S operas, and she looks confident in this role. Again though I would have liked a bit more amplification, because I know that Jacky has a really good, and experienced voice for this sort of show.
Heading up the police as the Sergeant, was John Gill. G&S is camp and John brought this element out of the Police Sergeant, creating more fun, especially in the song "When A Felon's Not Engaged In His Employment". Some of the comedy lyrics were lost slightly when the choreography kicked in as he turned away from the audience and headed towards the back of the stage. Again, we need mics!
The works of G&S really can divide a mixed cast and show up vocal greatness and those not quite made for opera. That's the case in this production. there were some excellent and strong vocals, and there were some who shine in other musical areas. i know this because I've seen many of this cast in other shows.
There are several actors making their debut in this production and i take my hat off to those first timers breaking their ducks with G&S. It's a lovely fun show and I enjoyed it. It was bright and pacy and the time flew by. No clock watching from me.
I think with the aid of some mics, this show would have been just right as sometimes the orchestra swallowed the singers up and turning away from the audience made for lost lyrics.
Timothy Selman is the Musical Director. The 14 piece orchestra was light and breezy and skipped along at a nice pace. Powerful in the crescendos.
As an ensemble the cast created a gorgeous layered wall of sound, which is where the PTC play to their strengths, well one of many of their strengths, which includes choreography.
Isabella Di Tora has choreographed G&S productions at Nottingham University and the choreography here is, like the songs, bright and breezy and great fun. The whole cast bring out the fun in this field.
The set, while fairly simple provided everything you needed. I say simple but I can imagine the construction and painting of the set was not as simple as I make it out to be. A nice backdrop to the action.
Loved the costumes by the way! Great fun.
This may not be as good as last year's G&S double but the PTC do tend to set their performance bar extremely high but, for me, this falls just below that bar. It's definitely worth seeing and with more projection, it would have been up there.
“Pirates Of Penzance” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 8 July 2017