PIRATES OF PENZANCE @ Quarry Amphitheatre gets 8.5/10

Pirates of Penzance
@ Quarry Amphitheatre

Sunday, March 8, 2020


This month pirates are invading Perth, in a Gilbert and Sullivan classic that has had a facelift. Platinum Entertainment producer and director of the show, Trevor Patient, teamed with UK-based musical director Chris Cox to revive the 140-year old tale with modern sentiment and vigour. The “Platinum touch” features the company’s trademark sets of aluminium Tri-Truss, this time built to house a visible band, staircases and trampolines which make for a whole lot of fun. The bow of the ship, in the shape of a guitar-head, sets the scene for this rock concert with a twist.

From the outset, the mood is introduced by a rowdy crew of whimsical pirates in colourful Hawaiian shirts. The Pirate King, played with commanding presence by Ryan Dawson, along with his motley band of men are celebrating the 21st year of clean-faced Frederic, played immaculately by Nicholas Cruse. The story follows Frederic as he is released from his pirate apprenticeship and ventures to land with his doting and faithful nurse Ruth, played by the powerful Leesa Steele. He meets Mabel, played by lovely soprano Charlotte Louise, and the two young people fall giddily in love. Their fate is disrupted when Frederic discovers he must return to the pirate life, and Mabel vows to stay true to him. Jamie Mercanti played a delightful, dotty Major General, whose hilarious rap rendition of I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General was a highlight.

Playful interaction between cast members demonstrated great chemistry and strong casting. The principal characters led the performance with confident professionalism. The large ensemble and additional vocal ensemble produced beautifully blended harmonies. A bonus performance by barbershop group Vocal Evolution was a brilliant idea, and a great plug for the a cappella music scene. Choreographer Una Genuino delivered a fresh combination of jazz and urban dance, adding to the youthful relevance of this adaptation.

The four piece band delivered a big sound, directed by Cox with his contribution of additional percussion and cheeky cast interactions. A diverse fusion of styles respectfully complemented the classic score, shifting from reggae to funk to old school rock and roll. Heavy rock guitars and strong bass lines juxtaposed the old-world sound of the harpsicord. The combination of sweet female harmonies layered with wailing electric guitar accents married superbly. Keen music fans appreciated nods to Queen, Status Quo, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Specials throughout.

Costuming was an eclectic mix of eras, with artistic director Katrina Patient combining 1900s-style pieces with modern streetwear. The quirky addition of props like a beer helmet, light saber, and a giant inflatable swan added to the tongue-in-cheek humour woven into the plot.

This version of Pirates of Penzance is a fresh take on your grandmother’s favourite operetta and a great way to familiarise new audiences with a classic. The fresh air of the outdoor Quarry Amphitheatre provides a unique theatre experience not to be missed.


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