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BWW Review: THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Palace Theatre

Sasha Regan’s award-winning all-male take on Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic operetta.

BWW Review: THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Palace Theatre

BWW Review: THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Palace Theatre

Sasha Regan's award-winning all-male take on Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance appeared in the West End this weekend at The Palace Theatre.

Gilbert & Sullivan's best-known, much loved classic operetta, which premiered in the 19th century, includes many well-known songs such as: "I Am A Pirate King", "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major-General" and "Poor Wandering One".

Sasha Regan's production was first staged over a decade ago at the Union Theatre to critical acclaim, followed by several successful UK runs and tour of Australia.

The story follows the young pirate apprentice, Frederic, who now at 21 years is released of his duties. He then meets and falls head-over-heels in love with Mabel, the daughter of a Major-General who agrees to their marriage.

But disaster strikes when Frederic learns he was born on the 29th of February so technically only has a birthday every four years and thus must remain apprenticed to the pirates for another 63 years. Bound by his unshakeable sense of duty, Frederic resolves to ask Mabel to faithfully wait for him until then.

The Pirates of Penzance was always intended to be a comic opera that mocks both society and the operatic form, but this production is side-splitting comedy.

The minimalist set and costumes allow the talent of the cast and Lizzie Gee's choreography to bring this show to life. The ensemble displays impressive stamina as they perform the extremely physical movements that are reflective of both the era and the character archetypes.

The concept of having an all-male cast who would need to portray a number of roles intended for women is a controversial choice, particularly in this current climate where it is now widely acknowledged that there has been lacking in substantial female roles. However, Regan's direction of the female characters comes across as a tribute to women and celebration of male femininity, which is a joy to watch.

Furthermore, Alan Richardson's Mabel is breathtakingly sweet and sensitive with a voice that would rival any West End soprano.

Regan's The Pirates of Penzance is a raucous, farcical, almost-pantomime to be enjoyed by the whole family, and just what we all need right now!


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