REVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance

Luke was thoroughly impressed by this imaginative rendition of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most famous comic operettas.

ADC Comedy Corpus Playroom Drama Gilbert and Sullivan Musical operetta pirates of penzance Robinson Robinson College student theatre Theatre

The Gilbert and Sullivan Society have certainly done themselves proud with their tremendous interpretation of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’.

Out of the cast, Bryn Reinstadler stood out as an outstanding soprano. Despite being her debut production, she managed to capture the character of Mabel perfectly and was by far the best vocalist in the cast. Sarah Cattley was hilarious in her first lead role as pirate-maid, Ruth, and had a lovely voice, if only a little quiet. I genuinely look forward to seeing the two of them return to the Cambridge theatre scene in the future!

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Director Bethany Craik with Matthew Smalley (chorus member) and Harry Normanton (Samuel)

Michael Morrison (The Major General) was the standout male lead. His singing and acting were impeccable and were maintained for the duration of the performance. Max Noble (Frederic) was a good tenor – slightly weaker on some of the higher notes but his vocals were, overall, strong, even if his acting was a little wooden now and then. Connor MacDonald (The Pirate King) also lacked expression and emotion at times but managed to pull off his vocals with ease.

Out of the chorus, special mention must go out to James Ward, who played a very humorous Police Sergeant and was a marvelous bass. Jemma Cleary (Kate) was an excellent comic actress and a fantastic singer. Harry Normanton (Samuel) also had a great voice and his enthusiastic performance brought tons of energy to the stage. Despite not having a named role, Jake Humbles’ vocals were also very strong and clear, and added extra depth to the chorus’ harmonies.

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James Ward (The Sergeant of the Police), Harley Jones (chorus member) and Harry Normanton (Samuel)

The majority of the rest of the cast were excellent; however, some of the ensemble were, noticeably, a lot weaker and unfortunately did not put as much energy into their performance as their fellow cast members. Nonetheless, when they came together, the chorus vocals were mesmerising and powerful. At times; however, the haphazard and complicated choreography detracted from these. There is a fine line between singers being too static and being too dynamic, and unfortunately, this line was crossed during a couple of the ensemble numbers, although I am certain the cast are not to blame for this staging mishap.

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A highly enthusiastic chorus

Some of the cast also had a few issues of projection, which meant that their vocals were sometimes drowned out by the orchestra on stage. Saying this, there was nothing at all wrong with the orchestra itself. The overtures at the start of both acts were near-perfectly executed by the highly talented musicians, and they were a pleasure to listen to for the duration of the performance. Sometimes an orchestra can be overshadowed by the cast, but having them all on stage was ingenious and helped to bring them into the action, without detracting from the dialogue and plot.

The Gilbert and Sullivan Society should be proud of their performance, despite some of the projection, energy and choreography issues, which at points detracted from the outstanding comedy performances, vocals and music.

I certainly look forward to seeing some of their other productions in the future.

4/5 stars