This production of THE MIKADO by the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Sydney , smoothly and niftily directed by Dean Sinclair, is in some ways presented as a Victorian pantomime as it opens and closes with a little girl falling asleep in her maid’s arms in the nursery and dreaming of the events in Titipu , the characters being figurines on the mantlepiece that come alive.
The complicated , twisted plot involves two young lovers, faked death, disguise and arranged marriages plus lots of social and political comment , greed , power and corruption , blending a dash of Aussie irreverence, Gilbertian British humour ,theatrical in-jokes and Sullivan’s glorious music. All gently poking fun at Mother England supposedly in an ‘exotic’ environment and celebrating the craze for the orient at the time it was written.
On a rocky beach in Cornwall … ahoy – there be Pirates!
Originally premiered 1879 it is one of the ‘Big Three ‘ of the Gilbert & Sullivan works – the others being HMS Pinafore and The Mikado.
Readers will probably be familiar with the Opera Australia version (Anthony Warlow as the Pirate King) or the Essgee version starring Jon English as the Pirate King. There also has been the all male version directed by Sasha Regan that toured here in 2012 from the UK.
Overall, this was a strong, traditional performance. Musically and vocally, under the excellent direction of Rod Mounjed, this production was splendid. The Orchestra was in fine form and gave a beautifully multi layered finely nuanced performance. Mounjed conducted precisely and energetically.
Under Victoria Watson’s direction the pacing and timing was great. The choreography was tight and stylised, albeit that it, at times, came across a little stiff.
The set design by Bradley Hawkins was very effective. One half of the stage was the pirate ship, the other a flight of stairs, a plinth, and a gargoyle like sculpture for the tomb in Act 2. There was a trapdoor for the Pirate King and for Ruth’s first appearance for ‘When You Had Left Our Pirate Fold ( the ‘Paradox ‘ trio Costumes were mid to late Victorian with bustles etc, for the ladies.
Our leading lady Mabel was excitingly sung by Sarah Arnold. I am not sure why she sat in a throne like chair to one side aloofly reading before her big first entrance?
Our darkly Byronic hero Frederic, ‘a slave to duty’, was terrifically performed by Daniel Verschuer, who was in fine voice.
As the dashing, charismatic Pirate King Chris Lewis had much fun swaggering and strutting around. His Oh Better Far To Live And Die was joyous and exhilarating.
Ruth the Piratical Maid of All Work was given a strong performance by Zoe Arthur.
As vibrant and ebullient Major General Stanley, Mitch Bryson was magnificent. His breathless, tongue twisting, patter song I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General, where he was gloriously resplendent in his imposing uniform brought the house down. In Act2 he is troubled and lamenting when ‘he thought he heard a noise. ‘ His bevy of daughters and chaperoning relations gave a terrific performance. Tall, hulking ,brooding Samuel was finely played by Joshua Knight.
Our Sergeant of Police was terrifically played by Toby Page, who was in fine, gravelly voice, lamenting, “A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One’ with his chorus of policemen.
Tarantara , tarantara…Gilbert and Sullivan’s PIRATES OF PENZANCE is playing the Shore Auditorium, Shore School, Blue Street, North Sydney until 8th October.
Running time 2 hours 20 including one interval .
Stage Director& Choreographer – Victoria Watson
Musical Director – Rod Mounjed
Choreographer – Sarah Pearce
Mabel Sarah Arnold
Frederic Daniel Verschuer
Ruth Zoe Arthur
Pirate King Chris Lewis
Samuel Joshua Knight
Edith Laura Griffin
Kate Angelique Tot
Isobel Holly Champion
Major-General Mitch Bryson
Sergeant of Police Toby Page
Chaperones & Daughters Fiona Ashton, Joann Balasuriya,
Kyran David, Marie Deverill, Alice
Dunne, Georgina Hughes, Jane Makin,
Ellie Singer, Judy Singer, Anna Skocz,
Sara Wakeling, Sonia White
Pirates & Policemen Nick Adams, Peter Chappell, Scott
Crichton, Michael Darmody, Terence
Hogan, Terry Matthews, Mary
O’Bryne, Dawn Pugh, Gary Selby,
Rory Struthers, John Wollaston
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