The Pirates of Penzance | Gilbert & Sullivan Society of South Australia


The Pirates of Penzance | Gilbert & Sullivan Society of South AustraliaLeft - Ian Andrew and Desiree Frahn. Cover - Andrew Crispe as the Sergeant of Police. Photos - Tim Allan.

“Thank God this time it’s different!” I heard someone mutter to a friend at interval. And it certainly is. This production is up-tempo, creative, energetic and jolly good fun in a way that Sullivan and Gilbert would surely have approved of.

The “Broadway Version” as this 1980 adaptation has become to be called, has been seen in Adelaide in other hands, but to my mind, in no better than those of our own revamped and modernised G&S Society. Directed imaginatively by Richard Trevaskis, the talented cast skipped through it with verve, and the fine orchestra in the very competent hands of Musical Director Ross Curtis, provided excellent support throughout. Wrapping the plot into a dream of young Frederic’s, and having him continue as a kind of alter-ego to Frederic is a nice touch.

Sir Arthur may not have thought of some of this rich orchestration (indeed he did not have at his disposal such an array of electronics as we do) or the occasional key changes. Neither would Sir William have interpolated a touch of “Ruddigore” into “Pirates” (but he did refer to “that infernal nonsense ‘Pinafore’ ” in it). Nevertheless, these additions fit perfectly, and enhance the enjoyment of the familiar score and the appealing silliness of the plot. I even detected the paw of a Pink Panther with cat-like tread across the score at one point.

Flawlessly integrated with this silliness is the inventive choreography by Linda Williams. The Policemen need to be seen to be believed! Led by slim Sergeant Andrew Crispe who has an agile talent for silliness, they eschew any traditional poses of the policeman’s lot, and bring Act 2 to the edge of farce without ever going over the top.

From the beginning, it was clear that there are some fine voices in this company. The chorus work was tight throughout, and the principals were all more than equal to their tasks. Outstanding with charm, talent, musicality and remarkable coloratura is Desiree Frahn as Mabel. Mark Oates swashes his buckle with style, energy and a great voice as the Pirate King, and Ian Andrew plays a dutiful and beautiful Frederic with morals as clean as his clear tenor voice.

Others worth a mention are Wendy Rayner as the pivotal Ruth who suddenly reveals that all the pirates are actually noblemen gone wrong (so they can all suddenly become Peers – Gilbert must have known there is a thin line between pirates and politicians); Blake Parham as the solid sidekick, Sam; and Vanessa Shirley whose un-Sullivanian chesty voice matched her stature as Edith. Andrew Crayford is a model of a modern Major General, and although he manages the comedic role well, the Patter song is difficult enough without having to add a mild speech impediment, which resulted in a lack of clarity.

Integrated creativity continues in the costumes (great 19th Century bathing cossies and matching shoes, for example) and the set which amounts to a treasure map with extra bits opening up fortuitously as needed.

All in all this is a wonderful re-creation of a well-worn and time-honoured piece, which does this company proud.


Gilbert & Sullivan Society of South Australia presents
The Pirates of Penzance
Sir W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan

Director Ric Trevaskis

Venue: Scott Theatre | off Kintore Ave, Adelaide University
Dates: Wed 26th May - Saturday 29th May at 8pm; Wed 2nd June - Saturday 5th June at 8pm
Matinees: Saturday 29th May and Saturday 5th June at 2pm
Tickets: Adult: $35, Concession: $28, Child (Under 17): $18, Family: $80,**Member: $24
Bookings: 8447 7239 | www.gandssa.com.au

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