Most helpful critical review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fun, frothy and silly
on January 14, 2007
If you are after traditional G&S, you've definitely come to the wrong place. This version is fun, frothy and silly, extensively "modernised", with little bits added and with electronic music. This production, with Jon English (Pirate King) and Simon Gallaher, first opened in Sydney in 1984 - just a fabulous night out - and personally I preferred it to what it had evolved to ten or so years later (the 1984 version launched the unknown Marina Prior, had a larger chorus of far more "normal" sisters, featured David Atkins as a sparklingly energetic and very tiny Sargeant, and June Bronhill - a real opera singer - as a delightful Ruth).
It's inevitable that some parts will not please everyone. Some changes enhance it, some seem like change for the sake of change... after all there ARE good reasons this show from the 1870s is still so loved! For example, I love the energy, enthusiasm and dancing ability of anything involving the Pirates and the men's chorus. On the other hand I can't stand the not-so-Fabulous-Singlettes, three singers who play "the ladies chorus" - if I was Frederic faced with a choice of marrying Ruth or going for the "sweet young things" then one of the most beautiful yearning tenor solos in the G&S lexicon would never have been written.
The strength of this production revolves around Frederic and the Pirate King (and that men's chorus!).
Simon Gallaher (Frederic) who I believe mounted this production (?) is a lovely Frederic - sings like an angel, looks young and innocent - just delightful. He plays the role "straight", and it works.
I really enjoy the performance of Jon English as the Pirate King. English (a former 70s rock star) has an awesome presence, helped by being extremely tall. He plays the King as a bit of a thick, a combination of lovable and scary but definitely dumb! - and very funny (although this probably worked better on stage!).
Helen Donaldson as Mabel is lovely - and also played "straight".
Major General - not the best choice - too young (looks like the younger brother of the Fabulous Singlettes), too stupid, too comic. The ORIGINAL is funny enough.
So - to buy it or not? It depends what you are after! My kids are enjoying it (as I speak!) as an intro to G&S, and it's great for that. Those looking for a new approach will find plenty to enjoy, although you may find (like me) that the "price" of the energy and new approach is needing to forgive some stuff!!! Purists will probably find that it is too much.
I DO wish they'd recorded it ten years earlier before it went too far...
There's another production currently running in Australia, from Opera Australia. I expect this will become available in the next six months (it's already been on TV) and I look forward to getting that one. Personally I prefer it, and I have to say the singing is MUCH, MUCH better.