Pirates of Penzance “excellent”

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REVIEW by Roger Browne

The Pirates of Penzance, staged by the Alexandra Musical Society, was performed to an appreciative audience on my Monday viewing during the society’s week of performances.

The director, Bryan Aitken, has brought a modern interpretation of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, using the 1981 Broadway version in conjunction with an Australian musical arrangement. Also present in the production were elements of steampunk as well as references to our local body elections.

The sword-fighting scenes, although looking precarious at times, went off without a hitch and established an appropriate atmosphere for the show. Nicholas Goudie, as the apprenticed pirate Frederick, applied his professionally trained voice and acting skills to good effect. He maintained a strong stage presence throughout the performance.

From her very first entry Natalija Krsinic, playing the part of Mabel, a daughter of the Major General, enthralled the audience with her beautiful voice. Whether in solos, duets or as part of a larger ensemble, her voice carried clearly and powerfully.

Probably the most well-known song from The Pirates of Penzance is I am the very model of a modern Major General and this was presented with flair and imagination by Duncan Anderson. In the role of the Major General he presented the disparate moods of the character with assurance.

Grant Radka as the Pirate King, Blake Luff as the Pirate King’s side-kick and Jules Molloy as the nursemaid Ruth all gave confident performances. Of the chorus numbers my favourite was the pirates’ song A rollicking band of pirates we, which was projected very convincingly by the band of pirates.

Keeping the singers on track was a 16-piece orchestra ably conducted by Sam van Betuw. The music set a smart pace from the very start, driving forward when needed. The dynamics of the accompaniment were always appropriate to the context.

The dancing, choreographed by Judith Campbell, was nicely managed, with elements of buffoonery in the case of performances by the hapless police force. The stage setting was simple with the exception of an elaborately crafted pirate ship, which made several appearances, reminding us what piracy is all about.

Of course, in true Gilbert and Sullivan style the final resolution of the opposing forces requires an uncritical acceptance of unlikely coincidences so that Mabel and Frederic could become happily united.

I would recommend The Pirates of Penzance for an excellent night’s entertainment. The season ends tomorrow.