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The Pirates of Penzance review at Savoy London

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This most operatic of Gilbert and Sullivan’s shows has been reworked by Steven Dexter, who directs it together alongside Peter Pan in repertory at the Savoy.

The show’s big name, Anthony Head, plays the Pirate King with great relishes and camps up delightfully. Sadly, when surrounded by classically trained singers, his voice is faint – at points almost inaudible – but he covers this weakness with bravado and a wonderful flying sequence during The Pirate King’s Song, presumably using the wires Peter Pan left behind.

Out-singing him are Hadley Fraser as Frederic, Elin Wyn Lewis as Mabel and Kathryn Evans as Ruth. Lewis in particular has a spectacular range, wonderfully demonstrated in her rendition of Poor Wandering One. Fraser is earnest as Frederic and plays the role straight, which delightfully contrasts the caricatures surrounding him. Evans enjoys the wordplay and sings well as Ruth, although her Act II performance is far superior to her Act I.

Comic characters are David Burt and Jack Chissick as the Sergeant of Police and the Major-General. Their standard of singing is not as high as the leads but they are carried through by the strength of the songs and some perfect comedic timing.

No one really disappoints in this show and it is the pirates of the title that provide most of the fun. They sing, they dance and they break into modern jazz routines at inopportune moments. The success of the chorus carries the entire show and lifts it above individual performers into an evening enjoyable for all – even those who would not consider themselves to be fans of the genre.

Production Information

Savoy, London, January 8-March 20

Gilbert and Sullivan
Steven Dexter
Raymond Gubbay, Savoy Theatre
Cast includes
Anthony Head, Kathryn Evans, Jack Blumenau, David Burt
Running time
2hrs 15mins

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