In its rebuilt form, Wilton’s Music Hall dates from exactly the same period as the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, whose premiere was given on Broadway in 1879.
Sasha Regan’s all-male production itself was first seen 10 years ago, and in the meantime has clocked up several revivals and tours, including one to Australia. In this latest emanation it comes up fresh as paint.
What Regan’s individual approach to Pirates demonstrates is the adaptability of the material itself, which she purveys with a healthy blend of fantasy and respect. Some might quibble with the additional lines and the busy visual gags, but they’re absolutely within the spirit of utter absurdity that Gilbert so gleefully espouses. The result will surely appeal equally to novices and aficionados.
Vocally, this particular show is not quite as proficient as some of the earlier ones. Tom Bales’ strong-minded Mabel struggles a bit at the top end of what is a full-scale coloratura soprano assignment, and though James Thackeray’s Pirate King has plenty of physical swagger, he’s a touch underpowered.
But Alan Richardson brings pathos as well as toughness to his redoubtable Ruth, Tom Senior is a lyrical Frederic, David McKechnie doesn’t drop a syllable in the Major-General’s song, and Duncan Sandilands is a sterling Sergeant of Police, leading a fine body of men all of whom sport Cornish accents as well as voluminous moustaches on sticks.
The entire company hurls itself at Lizzi Gee’s regularly brilliant routines while musical director Richard Baker keeps resolute order at the keyboard, with the entire score at his fingertips.