For its final production in Springwood Civic Centre before the building’s multi-million dollar reconstruction, Blue Mountains Musical Society has chosen Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance.
It’s a safe choice but one that seems a fitting farewell to the society’s home of more than 25 years. That it is their third production of Pirates is only testimony to the crowd-pleasing nature of the popular operetta.
This new production continues that crowd-pleasing tradition with assured direction, a strong cast, and an orchestra that does full justice to Arthur Sullivan’s score.
The 20-piece orchestra is front and centre in this production with part of the stage literally built around it. It is a bold move that gives the musicians — under the direction of Jem Harding — much-deserved recognition while perfectly suiting the light-hearted nature of the show.
The assured cast ably matches their musical backing, delivering the clever wordplay of Gilbert’s libretto with gusto.
Luke John Spiteri brings the right degree of swashbuckling swagger to the role of the Pirate King, both looking the part (his ‘pirate’ hair is real according to the program) and acting the role confidently.
Fresh from perfecting his mooning technique in BMMS’s last production of Grease, Alex Jeans changes tack to make his mark as the naive and dutiful Frederick.
Marisa-Clare Berzins impresses with her vocal gymnastics as his love interest Mabel.
The supporting players get to perform two of the best-known songs in Pirates, and both actors nail their moments in the spotlight — Anthony Gilchrist with ‘I am the very model of a modern Major-General’ and a stand-out Zach Jones as the Sergeant of Police during ‘When a felon’s not engaged in his employment’.
Director Ray Harding has taken a traditional rather than modern approach to the Gilbert and Sullivan favourite but the result if far from staid. He uses the sizeable contingent of female pirates to good comic effect, for example.
Despite the relatively small Springwood Civic Centre stage, the set design by Stephen Garnsey is clever, particularly in the second act.
At other times the stage’s constraints work against the production, limiting options for elaborate choreography and the potential for physical comedy.
But it does make you wonder what the society will be able to produce when they return to a vastly superior Springwood Civic Centre venue in 2015.
Until then, music lovers can see Pirates of Penzance until November 4.
For more information visit wwwbmms.org.au.