I don’t mind admitting that Gilbert & Sullivan have never been on my playlist, nor had I ever seen any of their operettas. I was familiar with several of their compositions however, songs such as “I am the very model of a modern Major General” and “When a fellon’s not engaged in his employment” (a.k.a. A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One). So I was unsure quite what to expect when I took my seat for the final performance of The Thalians latest offering “The Pirates Of Penzance”at the Thalian’s Hall in Bridge Road East, WGC on Saturday last.
I need not have worried as the entire show was a visual and musical delight from beginning to end. I do not exaggerate when I say it had everything from comedy, pathos, virtuoso singing (more of that later in my review), rousing ensemble singing, glamour, and did I mention comedy? Added to this was a first-class musical accompaniment by musicians, though few in number (only 3 plus Musical Director), who produced a full sound worthy of a much larger music section.
With a cast list of 24, fairly evenly split between ladies and gentlemen, many taking dual roles, it would not be practical to name everyone. However, I must single out some of the principal performers for special mention. Adam Beckman is not a newcomer to Thalians and was cast as The Pirate King, in stature and vocal performance I feel sure he would not be out of place of the stage of many professional opera companies, his commanding on-stage presence was mesmerising and his characterisation and vocal range a highlight of the show. Melanie Plowman-Cobb is new to Thalians, though clearly not new to singing. She was cast as Mabel, one of the Major General’s daughters, and it was as though she was born for the part. Her strong and assured singing was beautiful, and a perfect match for Alex Ryde who played Frederick, her love interest. Alex returns to Thalians after a break of several years and one wonders what he has been doing in the intervening period, performing I hope as his performance was first-class. Louise Bateman, a Thalians stalwart, was a joy to watch, first as the dowdy, down-trodden Ruth, Frederick’s nanny, and in the second half as a voluptuous lady pirate in black leather bustier (okay PVC but still!), breeches and thigh length boots (I needed to lie down for a while). Her singing and comic performance were spot on. Clive Dancey took the part of Major General and certainly did it justice, he was funny and energetic and carried off his iconic song extremely well. His other ‘daughters’ were played by Justine House as Edith, Mariama Barrie as Kate, both of whom sang solos, and Tammy Wall, Lauren Hill, Rachel Betts and MJ Scott, who were hilarious as modern day, slightly chavvy teenagers with all the usual poses and selfie taking. Peter Sayers was a very funny Samuel, the Pirate King’s right-hand-man, and Alison Downes played a very convincing Police Sergeant.
The Policewomen, the Concubines and the Pirates completed the cast and were lively, enthusiastic and rarely off stage. The costumes, choreography and simple stage set complemented the whole production and were much appreciated by the capacity audience who gave a seated but rousing ovation for a truly great evenings entertainment.
Congratulations to all involved, particularly Peter Farrell, the Musical Director, Tammy Wall and Alison Downes for choreography and Amanda Sayers, the Director who was also responsible for choreography. I await Thalians next production with anticipation.