MD: Ken Mathews Directors: Jennifer Moss & Richard Straw
St Andrew’s Operatic Society has a strong history of performing Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, and this year’s performance of The Pirates of Penzance was the tenth time that St Andrew’s has performed it since its foundation. New Directors Jennifer Moss and Richard Straw must have felt a little anxious in their new roles to ensure that this production represented the standard and quality that the Society has become renowned for, but they need not have worried.
This was a handsome production with plenty of British humour, superb vocals, and plenty of audience appreciation which clearly demonstrated that they had a good understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the genre. Every ounce of fun and humour was drawn from the script by an excellent stellar cast who did not miss a trick in this amusing tale set on a rocky seashore in Cornwall.
They told the story of Frederic, played by Philip Hall, a pirate apprentice who upon reaching his 21st birthday was relieved of his duties and a paradox is revealed. Philip played this role to perfection, delivering a strong performance and his singing was a highlight of the show with excellent dictation and control. I enjoyed his duet with Emma, “Stay Fredrick Stay”. Emma Rogers was a delight as Mabel, with excellent vocals. I loved her rendition of “Poor Wand’ring One” which proved to be one of many highlights, as was the duet in Act 2. Emma gave us a lovely performance, suitably demure, and ensured that she won the heart of Frederick as she made herself stand out from her sisters, Edith, played by Director Jennifer Moss, Kate, played by Liffy Wood, and Isobel, played by Glynda Blackburn. All gave sterling performances and had excellent singing voices.
In a cameo role was Paul Blackey, as Samuel, who also gave a confident performance, and I particularly enjoyed the solo “With Cat-like Tread”. There was a fine performance from Director Richard Straw as Major General Stanley. He looked every inch the archetypal ex-officer of the British Army, and I loved his musical number “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General”, not an easy song to sing but, fantastically delivered, as was the finale of Act 1 where “Hail Poetry” was wonderful to listen to. Rory Oliver played the dashing swash-buckling Pirate King and gave a sterling performance. His whole persona was totally as to what you would have expected in this charismatic role, as was his motley crew of pirates played by Colin Irvine, Alec Slaughter and Eric Stephenson.
As the story unfolds we were truly entertained by Ruth, played by Kathy Price, who, with a wicked twinkle in her eye, introduced us to her rather unfortunate error. A fantastic performance, as ever, from Kathy, with just the right touch of humour and self deprecation, coupled with some excellent vocals. I enjoyed Andrew Cunningham as the Sergeant of the police, trying to control his timid and cowardly policemen, played by Nick Antcliff, Keith Armitage, Dick Bradshaw, David Dunbar, Simon McLoughlin and Howard Weathers. They all had good timing and delivered their musical numbers well, giving a welcome touch of humour. This was a lovely production for the chorus with its giggling daughters played by Jen Bradshaw, Fiona Burdon, Laura Crawley, Janet Cunningham, Terri Dunne, Lizi Goodhall, Lois Lovely, Kim Storey and Carol Straw and the daughters’ chaperones played by Christine Blakey, Joan Cook, Elizabeth Dune, Anne Philips, Yvonne Richardson, Marie Smith and Vera Jackson.
The set was simple yet combined with lighting it created a sense of space and time and worked well in summoning up the two locations. Certainly the orchestra was in sparkling form in the competent hands of Musical Director Ken Matthews with accompanist Pam Bell and their eighteen piece orchestra. From the national anthem at the start of the performance and the ten minute overture, the sound was fantastic throughout, never overpowering. It was simply stunning, as were the eye-catching and authentic costumes and props, all adding to the stunning performance. In conclusion, this is probably my favourite Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta and surpassed any other G&S show I have seen to date. It is what you would expect from a professional production, with their enthusiasm and talent and is certainly a credit to our District. Well done everyone at St Andrew’s for a truly entertaining evening.