With my only previous experience of Gilbert and Sullivan being a rather hammy am-dram affair in a drafty old church hall, I had high expectations from this new co-production between Scottish Opera and The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, (their first new production in 10 years). Within seconds of the orchestra striking up I knew we were in for a treat, Derek Clark conducted the Overture beautifully, offering a taste of the melodic score that was to follow.
Director Martin Lloyd-Evans has delivered a slick production which, partnered with Jamie Vartan’s Pythonesque set design, breathes life into an operetta that was first performed in New York way back in 1879. Lloyd-Evans’ fresh and fabulous approach allows the cast to enter into the gleeful spirit of Gilbert and Sullivan without unnecessary modernisation.
Frederic whose nursemaid Ruth (Rosie Aldridge), made a mistake “through being hard of hearing” when he was a boy and apprenticed him to a pirate, instead of to a pilot is portrayed to perfection by Nicholas Sharratt, conflicted and duty-bound to serve with the pirate gang until well into his eightieth year due to ‘a startling paradox’ of being born on 29th February.
D’Oyly Carte veteran Richard Stuart delivers a wonderfully whimsical performance as Major-General Stanley particularly in the tantalising tongue-twisting Modern Major General, a faultless delivery of which as a sign of how infectious the Gilbert and Sullivan score is, I’m still humming today.
Special mention must go to both Steven Page whose confident and cheeky Pirate King portrayal wouldn’t be out of place in the Pirates of the Caribbean films and Graeme Broadbent who is impeccable as the dim-witted Sargent of Police, with a touch of John Cleese about him, he, with the rest of his idiotic crew offer up laughs a plenty for the enthralled audience.
Rebecca Bottone as Mabel, Frederic’s love and one of the Major-Generals many daughters is terrific, she wows the audience with her intoxicatingly powerful voice, beautiful and resilient, the perfect match for the naïve Frederic. Her chorus of sisters cope well with their witty choreography and collectively sound superb.
The production is uplifting, charming, jam-packed with knockout performances, stunning costumes and an eye catching ‘Pythonesque’ set. Lloyd-Evans has created a perfect production, gleeful, satirical with more than a few belly laugh inducing moments thrown in for good measure.