Review by Aldo Longobardi April 2012
The flimsy plot about a pirate torn between his duty and his heart is secondary to the melodrama that Sue Pole has emphasised in Northern Light’s production of The Pirates of Penzance.
While this meant that the acting generally became hammy caricatures with little differentiation, the charm of this production was that it provided good entertainment, energetic performances, and great ensemble work without taking itself too seriously.
The band of pirates started off a little shaky in the opening scene, but the arrival of the bashful girls saw the energy lift, almost becoming a kind of “20 or so Brides for Half as Many Pirates!”
David MacGallivray hypnotised the throng of swooning ladies with his gyrating hips as romantic lead, Fredric. His vocal performances were generally good, particularly his duet with love interest Mabel (Laura Buick), a particular highlight for both actors. Gavin Cianci, as the Pirate King, required more boldness and command in his physicality, and he struggled with the low notes. Ben Kempster was a delight as the ‘very model of the modern Major-General’ with good control over his demanding vocal and physical performance. The slick and committed chorus was a delight to watch and listen to.
Pole and choreographer Kerreanne Sarti found physical comedy in almost every situation. A slapstick fall or stumble often punctuated the comic moments, though this occasionally upstaged the principal performances in places.
Tammy Papps ‘rocked up’ the numbers injecting a new energy into 133 year-old score. The production sailed swiftly though Damon Hill’s impressive set design, complete with the hull of the pirate ship sailing onstage in the opening number, and ending with a crowd-pleasing megamix finale.
“Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry!” exclaimed Northern Light’s band of tender-hearted pirates. And so they should drink and be merry: this production is a real treasure!