Reviewed by: Tatum Stafford
I’ve always heard great things about the South West Opera Company’s productions, so was very excited to have the chance to check out their 2023 offering of Gilbert and Sullivan’s seminal classic, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.
Opening with a bang and a very impressive sequence of agility, the show featured a raucous cast of pirates, ladies, and policemen as we were whisked through two acts of jaunty music and quirky characters.
We first meet the swashbuckling Pirate King (Peter Heyworth), and then Frederick (Mitch James), who leaves the King and his pirates in search of true love. He stumbles upon a group of beautiful women who all reject him, except for his beloved Mabel (Michaela Mitchell).
After pirates storm the beach where the women are relaxing, the girls’ father, the Major-General Stanley (Rob Hill), objects and claims to be an orphan to gain the sympathy of the pirates. What follows is quite a frantic second act, which features a troupe of policemen determined to arrest the pirates, a humorous moment of confusion in which Frederick learns he was born on February 29 and is thus only a few years old, and a happy resolution for all (well, mostly).
This production was directed by Mary-Ellen Sutherland, with musical direction from Marguerite Monagle. The show is incredibly slick, fast paced, and beautifully staged. It is stunning to look act, with a consistent projection and well thought-out set pieces, particularly in the second act which had some elaborate graveyard dressings.
There were also some incredibly strong performances. Rob Hill’s Major-General was a clear audience favourite, as was the boisterous Pirate King played by Peter Heyworth. The ‘Three Chickie Babes’, comprised of Edith (Nerida Mangano), Isabel (Susanna Ingham) and Kate (Breanna Redhead) were incredibly fun to watch, and Michaela Mitchell was vocally perfect as Mabel; offering plenty of comic relief to boot.
Props also to the athletic Matthew Winter (Samuel) and his mini troupe of acrobatic performers, the confidence Mitch James as Frederick, who displayed a soaring voice and solid comic timing, and Caleb Coffey as the Sergeant of Police, who was very fun to watch and led the group of policemen with aplomb.
This was a very solid and enjoyable production, and the large ensemble should be highly commended for the work they have clearly poured into each scene, song, and dance routine. Everything was well polished and performed with dazzling smiles. I look forward to seeing what the company do next!