Mosman Musical Society: Pirates of Penzance - Review by Kate Simmons
If you’re looking for an evening of pure fun, look no further than Mosman Musical Society, which presents Gilbert and Sullivan’s "The Pirates of Penzance" at the Zenith Theatre. I had the pleasure of experiencing this delightful show, and I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Jody Rose (Director), you have put together an amazing group, and created a thrilling experience for people to see.
Even before the show began, the audience was dragged into a whole new world. The lighting effects to make the stage look like rolling waves, the sea ambience sound effects, the beautiful abstract painted backdrop of a sandy beach, and the minimal but effective sets instantly transported you to a place you were happy to go to. Alex Cotton, Production Design, has done a brilliant job creating such an effective and believable set, even with the simplest of designs. As soon as the lights went down and the music started, I knew I was in for a good time. In a beautiful homage to the classics, the show started off with a montage of some of our favourite shows (Sound of Music, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, and many more), before the Musical Director and Conductor, Jim Coyle, brought us all back to the reason we were all there: The Pirates of Penzance!
Jim’s love of the show and energetic nature really passed on to every member of the cast and audience. His animation was fantastic, his ongoing banter and his involvement in the show itself was amazing (especially his ‘swordfight’ with the Pirate King in the first act—I was blown away), and his pirate shirt tied everything in. The biggest testament to his hard work, however, was just how amazing the cast sounded. Whether it was a group number or a solo, the vocals were amazing. The 4-piece band was impeccable; if I couldn’t see them there in the pit in front of the stage, I would have sworn there were more people playing. They nailed the fun-loving style of the songs and played fantastically.
Another standout aspect was undoubtedly the choreography and staging. The dance numbers were expertly crafted—expressive enough to bring through the drama of the scene but simple enough to not pull away from the fantastic vocals. The movement was playful and fun, and every different group had their own amazing style—proof of the hard work and artistry of Lisa Frisina, the choreographer. And I must mention her great performance as a police officer for the evening. The staging was a true testament to Jody Rose’s skill as a director. From the clever use of blocking to incorporating the pit as a hiding place, the movements and motivations behind them felt organic and truthful. Everyone was given their moment to shine with your orchestration.
Now on to a personal passion of mine—costuming. I cannot express just how impressed I was with the costumes in this show. From the subtle but beautiful individuality given to each sister’s dress, to the clever use of makeup to scruff up the pirates and age the Major General, to the well-placed pops of red within the cast as a whole, Susan Boyle, you have done amazingly. The costumes were beautifully crafted and carefully put together to reflect the character wearing them while also being accommodating enough to allow for the choreography, and the surprise appearance of Queen Victoria’s face was a great touch.
The entire production team should be very proud of the work done with this cast.
Speaking of the cast, their infectious energy was palpable, and their enthusiasm for the show was contagious. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as the performers sang, danced, and joked their way through the story. Each member brought a unique personality to their role, and their chemistry on stage was electrifying. The small comedic moments were a beautiful touch from the ensemble, from a pair in the background playing chopsticks to sisters passing their handkerchiefs around to Frederick piggybacking the Pirate King off stage. The leads, especially, were remarkable, delivering powerful vocals and endearing characterisations that had the audience laughing along with them.
Hannah Reid played a charming Frederick, balancing that tenor harmony line with a boyish flair. Her performance was complemented beautifully by the grace and knockout vocals of Bridget Patterson as Mabel. The moment Mabel stepped on stage, I was captivated. Similarly captivating was the playful and boisterous performance by our Pirate King, Clare Gerber. Her high energy and brilliant comedic timing had me wanting more every time she left the stage. And let’s not forget our other swashbuckling leads, Suzie Blackwell and Daniel Kramer. Suzie’s depiction of Ruth’s flip from love-sick biddy to lively buccaneer was a combination of some brains, some beauty, and a whole lot of attitude. Likewise, Daniel’s performance as Samuel was exceptional. He presented a powerful character, mixed with a fantastic singing voice, in such a fun and engaging style. Moving on, we mustn’t miss mentioning the monumental moment that is the "Modern Major General". Jake Nelson was a standout as Major-General Stanley. From his lyrical and vocal control to his brilliant physicality, he made what I would declare one of the hardest songs to perform live, look like something he could have performed in his sleep. Now, my biggest props must go to Sammi Morris O’Key, who took over the role of Sergeant of Police for the evening. If the announcement hadn’t been made that she was filling in, I would have never known. She danced and sang her way into well-deserved applause. Props to you, Sammi; you were loveable and funny and took total command of the role.
As for the ensemble, the only comment I can give is... WOW! The sisters as a group have their own noticeable personalities and reactions to the action around them. Singularly, though, they all shined in their own way. A shout out to Andrea Ginsberg (Edith), Bela Rivas (Kate), and Emma Gubb (Isabel) for their entertaining execution of their characters. You were sweet, delightful, and sassy all at once. For our marauding pirate crew, I found myself engrossed. The comradery between them all as a group was fantastic; even when they were out plundering, they were still so playful and charming to watch. My admiration especially goes to the liveliness and enthusiasm of Sasha Dance and Charlie Jackson; it didn’t matter what song it was, you both put your all into your characterisations and dancing. And as for the contributors of some of my favourite moments of the night, the police were a welcome addition to the action. Their blundering movements mixed with their energetic facial reactions had the audience laughing at every little moment. Of course, something must be said for the sweetest officer, Matilda Munt. For such a young age, she kept up beautifully with the rest of her castmates and delivered one of the funniest moments in the entire show for me (thanks to some fancy tech work). Keep an eye out for her, because I know she has a long and brilliant future on stage.
All in all, if you have the chance to see this show before it ends on April 29, 2023, I highly recommend you go. The cast, crew, and production team deserve every cheer and moment of applause that they received. I give Mosman Musical Society’s "The Pirate of Penzance... 4 "Yarrr! Me Hearties!" out of 5.
Photos courtesy of @dani_hansen