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The Pirates of Penzance

Published Thursday 22 April 2010 at 11:52 by Paul Vale

Ever the slave of duty, young Frederic must return to the band of pirates to whom he was apprenticed as a child, thus endangering his love for Mabel, the Major General’s daughter. Arguably Gilbert and Sullivan’s most accomplished comic opera, Pirates matches a mock-Verdi score with snappy lyrics and an intelligent and amusing libretto that has travelled the years extremely well. Both artists knew how to pander to all the classes, ensuring that musical numbers became as popular in high-class salons as they did in the lowliest music halls of Victorian England. Carl Rosa Productions happily blends both ends of the scale together with some cheeky, comic direction from Peter Mulloy and some sumptuous lead vocals from Katy Batho as Mabel and Stephen Brown as Frederic.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Barry Clark is indeed the very model of a musical comedy character actor, with a whole range of vaudeville tricks brought to the much loved role of Major General Stanley. Bruce Graham is perfectly suited as the extremely Cornish Sergeant of Police, although a very obviously painted-on moustache appeared out of keeping with the design of the show. Rosie Ashe makes such delightfully expressive and vigorous Ruth that there are times when she seems simply unsuited to the role of an ageing, lovelorn nursery maid. The star draw in this particular production is Paul Nicholas as the Pirate King. Nicholas still has oodles of charisma and is at times regally impressive, but he occasionally lacks the energy required both vocally and physically for the role.

Production information

Churchill, Bromley, April 20-24, then touring until June 12

WS Gilbert (book and lyrics), Arthur Sullivan (music)
Peter Mulloy
Carl Rosa Opera Ltd
Paul Nicholas, Rosie Ashe, Barry Clark, Bruce Graham, Katy Batho, Stephen Brown
Running time:
1hr 50mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014