ON THE 60th anniversary of Littlehampton Players Operatic Society, this distinguished company chose to celebrate with a ‘seaside adventure at our seaside theatre’, writes Marilyn Dennis.
The choice of Gilbert and Sullivan’s evergreen The Pirates of Penzance, written 136 years ago, was an excellent one for this landmark occasion, being one of the most frequently performed of all pieces of musical theatre due to its ever-increasing popularity.
The first night was a resounding success, with a very strong family cast of principals, choruses and directors. There was even a pirate’s parrot – a colourful puppet cleverly handled and musically sung by musical director, Daniel Paine.
The Pirate King (Simon Smith) led his swashbuckling bandits with great gusto, especially in the chorus With Catlike Tread (Come, Friends Who Plow the Sea).
The more ineffectual Sergeant of Police (Jimmy Lynch) added humour, with his force bobbing up and down in true constabulary style. The pretty daughters of Major-General Stanley (David Martin) danced and sang beautifully, enticing the pirates and causing a contretemps between the two protagonist groups.
His celebrated solo, ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’ was delivered with great panache in typical Gilbert & Sullivan style.
One of the daughters, Mabel (Gudrun Lehmann-Shanks) and the young pirate apprentice, Frederic (Graham Carton) had meanwhile fallen passionately in love, dashing the hopes of ‘piratical maid of all work’, Ruth (Emily Dadson). Gudrun’s high soprano voice trilled and thrilled in true operatic fashion, with Graham’s ardent wooing very affecting. His character was in the tricky situation of being a leap-year baby, so his dreams of leaving the piracy at his chronological age of 21 appeared severely thwarted – but it all ended happily ever after.
Pirates was expertly directed by veteran producer Stuart Box, with stage manager Sarah Smith and their team. Music was ably provided by Keith Smithers, John Woodman and Paul Whiteside.