PIRATES OF PENZANCE - JULY 2021

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Director - Suzanne Hall

Musical Directors - Martin Paterson & Katie Hickson

By Gilbert and Sullivan

Wolvesey Palace Garden, Winchester 20th - 24th July 2021

Cast:

Major General Stanley - David Tatnall

The Pirate King - Rob Preston

Samuel - Daniel Williams

Frederic - Dan Hickson

Sergeant of Police - Alan Morgan

Mabel - Annie Tatnall

Ruth - Katie Hickson

Edith - Kimberley James

Kate - Jess Eades

 

Pirates

 

Peter Barber, Alex Frisby, Harry Frisby, Steve Gleed, Adrian Hickford, Simon Meanwell-Ralph, Iain Steel

 

Daughters

Funke Akiboye, Lisa Axworthy, Emma Colbourne, Shannon Cronin, Amy Leddy, Lyndsay Smith, Charlotte Upfold, Izzy Wylde

 

Women of the WI Police Force

Jan Baerselman, Penny Bullough, Debbie Cleary, Marina Humphrey, Alex Lawrence, Sally Male, Lorraine Morgan, Juliet Surridge, Denise Truscott

Pirates of Penzance - July 2021
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021

WMOS - Winchester Musicals and Opera Society

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Pirates of Penzance - July 2021
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021

WMOS - Winchester Musicals and Opera Society

press to zoom
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021

WMOS - Winchester Musicals and Opera Society

press to zoom
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021
Pirates of Penzance - July 2021

WMOS - Winchester Musicals and Opera Society

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Charity Collection
Parent Support Group
Sponsorship
The Pirates of Penzance was kindly sponsored by:
Portcullis Construction Ltd

REVIEWS

NODA

My companion and I had a delightful evening renewing our love of G&S in general but Pirates in particular - a show in which we both appeared in the back row of the chorus a few years ago.  The whole setting arcadian and the organisation was superb particularly the ladies of the WI manning 'front of house' in their costumes.  I wonder how many people realised they would see them later in another guise!  The evening whizzed by and the raising of the lights, particularly the lighthouse, as the evening shadows fell, was spectacular.

 

Production: First class - Suzanne and Kate were inspired.

Set: Imaginative, simple and highly effective something WMOS and Liz is famous for.

Costumes: colourful, maginative, well coordinated and worn correctly. The white pumps and lace topped socks really are so versatile.

Musicians: Superb

Singing: Fabulous throughout.  Such wonderful part singing and as for 'Hail Poetry' sublime  and brought tears to the eyes.

Principals:  Well balanced, well rehearsed - they sang with conviction and emotion in all the various styles of music.

 

Apologies to anyone or anything I have omitted. 

 

The audience appreciation throughout and particularly at the end was without doubt genuine and heartfelt.  It has been said many times 'We have all missed live theatre.......'  This production was of the highest standard of creativity and presentation.  It  gave maximum enjoyment to all who were privileged to witness.

 

I am always delighted to accept your very generous invitations but last night was a real honour.  Thank you again.

Kay Rowan

South East Regional Councillor & Summer School Liaison

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Warmly welcomed back to where we were only the week before, we were greeted by Suzanne Hall and taken to our seats. There had been a collaboration between "Chesil Theatre" and WMOS to use the same staging, (great to see the local societies working together), and although small and simple it was very effectively used. This Performance of The Pirates of Penzance was set in 1950's and the backdrop was a simple line of "Swimming Tents" for act one and the Baronial Hall for Act two. The show was well stage managed by Angie Barks, who had her work cut out with the flats with the occasional large gusts of wind. We settled in...

This was a well crafted, professional and entertaining show. The costumes were very colourful and very effective in transporting us to a bygone era. Both the male and female principals and  chorus in act one were spot on musically, with clear singing and brilliant diction. even allowing for being outside we could hear every word. The songs, hugely recognisable were sung with real love and gusto and most were intertwined seamlessly with famous songs of the 1950's, Hound Dog, Fever, Love me Tender and so on. It really brought something new. A brilliant Idea.

The band, ably led by Martin Patterson were equally enjoying themselves and the musical accompaniment from them moved the show along at an entertaining lick. The Major General, played  by David Tatnell sang the "i am the very model" to a whole new patter of words all aimed at the last 18 months and the Covid 19 effect. Delivered brilliantly and clearly. Notable performances here also by Kate Hickson as Ruth, Dan Hickson as Frederick (despite, maybe, being a slightly"older" Frederick but with a fabulous tenor voice) and  Rob Preston as The Pirate King, full of enthusiasm and playing to the audience extremely well. The fact is though all of the cast were very high quality. Choreography, simple well drilled and very effective. Everyone on stage was having such a good time, this really shone through and came over to the audience.

The second act started with a new backdrop and the introduction of the Sgt of Police (Alan Morgan) and his troupe, which turned out to be as members of the WI, again a wonderful Idea that had us all in stitches, and "a Policemans lot" took on a whole new meaning! As the sun began to set the simple and yet really effective lighting (Tony Lawther) took over and just added that little bit of extra to finish the show off to huge cheers and great applause.

This was a colourful and joyous performance, everyone of whom should be rightly proud of what they have achieved given all the trials, tribulations and difficulties that producing a show of this quality over "zoom" and with a very small "outdoor" rehearsal period placed in front of them. First rate and ten out of ten.

Mark Allen

WINCHESTER TODAY

Colourful, exciting and sublime – and that’s just the backdrop. If you could epitomise the perfect setting to hold an outdoor performance of any type, it would be Wolvesey Palace Gardens in the heart of Winchester, nestled between the grand old buildings of the Bishop’s Palace, Winchester College and the cathedral.

With beautifully tended walled gardens to contain the sound and provide extra colour and ambience, you could not pick a more suitable place to spend a pleasant summer’s evening.

And opening night for Winchester Musicals and Operatic Society’s latest production, ‘Pirates of Penzance’, did not disappoint in any way.  To pull together a show of this calibre with a combined cast and crew of well over 50 is a huge task at the best of times.

But combine that with the unprecedented delays, inconvenience and impracticality of rehearsing during a pandemic, plus the knock-on effect of lockdowns, uncertainties about government guidelines and roadmaps, it amounts to something of a miracle of ingenuity, determination and creativity – not to mention a huge gamble as to whether the show might even happen in the end.

Just the extra time and effort in planning and recording practice tracks to be rehearsed online, libretto rehearsals held by Zoom, maximum groups of six outdoors to start live rehearsals and the gradual lifting of restrictions enabling groups of 30 to meet outdoors must have culminated in a lot of praying and finger crossing that it would all be worth it by 19th July (a close call).

But for Suzanne Hall, director and choreographer, and her talented team it has paid off in spades, culminating in one of the most spectacular, funny and entertaining evening’s entertainment I have seen in that setting – or elsewhere, for that matter.

I hesitate to say ‘for a long time’ because it really has been such a long time since I had the chance to watch, let alone review, a show of this size and complexity and given the circumstances under which it was brought to life it is a remarkable achievement.  It’s so good to have real, live, theatre back in our lives.

‘Pirates of Penzance’ was also the choice of production for the very first show by this long standing group, back in 1913.  Just read The Hampshire Chronicle’s statement at the time: “Although time was short and the difficulties ahead were great it was the magic word ‘enthusiasm’ which carried the society through.”  They could have been writing that about this production, couldn’t they?

The second outdoor production in the same venue in as many weeks, WMOS shared lighting rigs, sound and stage layout with Chesil Theatre who put on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ last week, again to full audiences and wonderful acclaim.  Another careful bit of planning.

Suzanne is no stranger to direction and choreography and it shows through: the dancing is tight, enthusiastic and beautifully arranged.  The decision to set the show in the 1950s without affecting the integrity of Gilbert & Sullivan’s original story and score just adds to the spectacle.  Seamlessly weaving into the original score a handful of 1950s hits by Elvis Presley, Peggy Lee and others may sound a little bizarre but it really does work.

Suzanne says: “We needed something uplifting, with an optimism that things were going to get better… Katie [Hickson, musical director and principal] and I were struck with how similar the rhythms and melodies were to Arthur Sullivan’s original score and were a perfect fit.”  A pinnacle of this bold move has to be the blending of the Major General’s song with Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’ into one immensely entertaining rendition by David Tatnall, whose sheer presence in the role very nearly steals the show.

But an ensemble piece it is and, of course it has been performed hundreds, if not thousands of times, in all sorts of guises and places including Cornwall’s magnificent Minack Theatre as well as, of course, Penzance itself.  It is accepted that it is not always set in the Victorian period and that some tinkering of words and songs is the norm.  So it is no surprise that the nine-strong police force are all ladies in tweed skirts and black sensible shoes, carrying handbags but sporting traditional policeman’s helmets.  Led by the police sergeant, played effortlessly by Alan Morgan, the antics of this group in particular are so funny, clever and a joy to watch. They’ll have you in stitches.

The unlikely gang of pirates is another colourful self-contained ensemble, each member with his or her own characteristics and idiosyncrasies.  Led by Pirate King Rob Preston (a powerful and commanding voice and presence) who opens the show with the immortal words “Ah-harrrr!” from afar, this cutlass-wielding bunch of lovable rogues is equally watchable, as is the third group of (ten) daughters of Major General Stanley.  What an amazing chorus line-up they make with their 50s dresses, white socks and plimmies, a wonderful range of voices and dance moves.

The love-centre of the piece is Mabel, played to perfection by Annie Tatnall (she of operatic singing voice with an amazing range) who has played the same role no less than four times now.  Her suitor comes in the form of Frederic, a reluctant pirate who discovers to his horror that because he was born on the 29th February is not 21 at all but only five and a quarter.  Dan Hickson, who has taken many a leading role with WMOS, is just a tad mature for the part but who cares?  He carries it off with aplomb and, being the straight guy, some nicely understated comedy and singing.

Special mention for Katie Hickson, musical director, who obviously did a lot of homework and extra preparation for the show in difficult circumstances, wove the modern and traditional music scores together and brought together a bandstand full of six musicians led by conductor / keyboard player Martin Paterson.  But not satisfied with that, she also plays Ruth, part-time pirate and ex nurse and hopeful partner to Frederic. Wonderful stuff – another enviably talented member of this long standing society.

Which brings me full circle back to that backdrop – Liz Petley-Jones’ set design includes a series of beach huts in the first act which, by magic appear to effortlessly turn around in the interval to form a ruined chapel.  Seagulls appear on long poles over the audience before the start and some lovely details both visible and audible add the icing on the cake.  There is even a red and white striped lighthouse, complete with revolving light, and the irregular staging area lends itself to a semi-round audience area.

Lighting is subtle and unnecessary until well into the second act, sound is superb (one or two tiny glitches with a couple of radio mics didn’t spoil it for me but hopefully they’ve ironed those wrinkles) and the orchestra, on its own bandstand provides the right balance, bearing in mind the 50s medleys, adding saxophone to the more traditional keyboards, double bass, drums and wind instruments.

Tickets, I understand, are selling like hot cakes (as are the ice creams, hot and cold refreshments including Pimms and non-alcoholic cocktails), so don’t delay if you want to get to see this highly polished and entertaining show set in the most idyllic surroundings.

Bravo, WMOS – and I am so looking forward to their production of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Chorus of Disapproval’ at the Theatre Royal Winchester, 10th – 13th November.
 

David Cradduck

Winchester Today