Orchestra, curtains, lights and a plethora of pirates with a whole lotta ‘aaarrrrrrr’ burst onto the stage on Friday night at the Concert Hall, QPAC. With swaggering sword play, satirical eloquence and some mighty-fine abs being sported, Pirates of Penzance hits all the right notes and has the audience eating out of the performers’ hands within the first song-and-dance! This energy is kept up throughout the entire show and OMG don’t the cast (and the audience!) have some fun…
Just when you think you have seen every rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, along comes a contemporary slap-and-tickle production that reinvents the stage. PIRATES is a REAL musical comedy with emphasis on music AND comedy. Thespians, young and old, come together to create excitement with Ruth (Nancye Hayes, take a bow, you’ve GOT IT in spades) ripping laughs out of the audience with her first ditty, “When Fred’ric was a little lad” and her reference to “Slave of duty – gnawed by the cankering truth of mystery…” had me hiccupping with laughter. I was not alone: Ruth had the ability to make you laugh and cry almost simultaneously (hence the hiccups)!
Enter the Pirate King (Andrew O’Keefe – everyone’s new best friend) with such verve and vigour, vying for attention (he IS the Pirate King, after all) with some of the best quips and quavers a role can offer: Andrew’s swaggering and sword play, with a bit of ‘daring-do’ dynamited the already hot production into the piratical-inferno! “Someone remind me to jolly-up Roger” scalded my brain.
The ‘girl group’ of sisters (Edith, Kate and Isabel, aka, Natalie Greer, Astin Blaik and Kimberley Hodgson) catapult the audience into the 21st century with their ‘tude and their talent. Wow, their every movement (great choreography, thanks Callum Mansfield, throughout the show we sung your praises) was reminiscent of soul-funky times, nailed to the stage with the finale and the Supreme outfits befitting their performance (fluffery by Graham Maclean, an awesome costume designer).
Frederic (Billy Bourchier) has a set of lungs on him that can herald the coming of any Pirate ship invasion and though he looks too young to even vote, he already has the experience and presence of a hunk twice his age! Debuting with Harvest Rain, he is a star on a flag of musical excellence! Georgina Hopson (Mabel) is also making her professional musical theatre debut with Harvest Rain and lucky the crystal glasses didn’t shatter when she unleashed her vocal chords!
With Dean Vince (Police Sargeant) camping-it-up Pythonesque-style with the rest of the police and pirates and John Wood as The Major General (who else would you expect?) remembering all those tongue-twisting lines and dancing and singing a treat – well, this show has just got to be experienced to be appreciated, truly.
This was opening night, thirty years on (30th anniversary for Queensland Performing Arts Centre AND the first attraction being Pirates) with Director, Simon Gallaher’s version of Pirates marking its first professional outing away from the confines of his own company and embraced fully as Harvest Rain’s new production.
Producer, Tim O’Connor says his love for musical theatre (coupled with his love of Brisbane) has seen his life-long dream of a career in musical theatre on his own home turf come to fruition with Pirates, bringing it home to Brisbane audiences. Simon has had a long history with Pirates and this has been his ‘official debut’ as director, mixing ‘familiarity and surprise in a worthy combination”.
Harvest Rain, not supported by any government funding, has put musical theatre on the Brisbane map and relies on sponsorship and audience participation to continue their amazing theatrical presence. They have Australian Musical Theatre workshops and training programs.
As with any major stage performance, the sum of the cast and crew make up the whole, and always too many to mention in a review, but let me congratulate Callum Mansfield (choreographer); Robert Clark (music director); Josh McIntosh (set design); Graham Maclean (costume design); Andrew Meadows (lighting design) and Jim Paine (technical manager) with all the performers who made this a standing ovation times five performance that I will not quickly forget!
Harvest Rain presents
Pirates of Penzance
by Gilbert & Sullivan
Director Simon Gallaher
Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC
Dates: 19 – 22 March 2015
Tickets: $119 – $69