The one that has a technicality over a leap year?
Pirates of Penzance has sailed into the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. The Gilbert and Sullivan classic romps its way through an amusing storyline full of slapstick and farcical revelations all set within the parameters of an operatic score. The audience get little time to absorb this notion as the production moves at a rate of knots with a host of pirates, who are all near the exact same height, parading round the stage with gusto!
A quick summary of the plot centres around Frederick, played by Owen Pullar, whom upon his 21st birthday completes his apprenticeship with a band of Pirates and takes the option to leave them and upon doing so meets the daughter of a Major General, Mabel played by Elsie Bennett and instantly fall in love! Complications as you can image arise resulting in Frederic discovering he should actually serve another 63 years with the pirates due to being born on a leap year, and Mabel opting to wait for him at the ripe old 84.
Set on the pint sized set by Christopher Hone, the tabard is transformed uniquely into the galley of the ship with a series of pulleys, barrels and all things nautical it’s easy to forget you’re perched in a seat above a pub. Elsie Bennett as Mabel delights with beautiful tones in her voice and is in every way the leading lady, her presence on stage is very much felt as she works her way through her vocal numbers.
The ensemble are all very strong musical theatre performers. Cymbal crashing Benjamin Vivian-Jones, Gareth Mitchell, Rossana Canzio, and Mark McManus present enjoyable scenes as the “Tarantara” chuntering police men, delivering a comedic routine of well thought out choreography that has the audience laughing along.
A key highlight to the piece, that mustn’t go unmentioned, is the moment the entire cast swamp the tiny stage to join Roger Parkins as the Major General, performs the tongue twisting “I am the very model of a Modern Major General” with ease despite spitting out several words a second. Parkin’s scene stealer easily earns him the biggest applause of the night leading to a rousing rendition at the curtain call.
However, for all that is wonderful about this production especially within the characterisation of the ensemble, the battle between the Pirates and Police Officers came second to the battle of the band and the performers. At times Musical Director Andre Refig seemed to fight to gain control of the piece, with the performers struggle to make entrances together as a group. I stress this only happened on a few occasions but none the less should be addressed to ensure a flawless performance.
Pirates of Penzance is a fun evening out that promotes a wealth of young talent who bring this 1880 production to a new modern audience with a fresh interpretation.