KILKENNY Musical Society’s 40th anniversary production of “Pirates of Penzance” opened to huge acclaim in front of a packed audience at the Watergate Theatre on Sunday night.
As soon as the jolly band of Pirates literally hit the stage in the opening scene with “Pour Oh Pour” and “The Pirate King Song” the enthusiastic audience was won over. The energy and volume from the men’s chorus was a feature of this production and the comedic highlights introduced by Director David Heffernan set the tone for what was to turn out to be a right rollicking night’s entertainment.
Not to be outdone, the bevy of young maidens, played by the ladies of the Society, brought a truly melodic feel to the production. Their colourful costumes were another feature and the audience was swept back to a bygone era when the Operetta was the standard diet for theatre goers in Kilkenny.
And another throw back to the past saw Soprano Joanne Mc Cabe, who plays Mabel, really winning the hearts of the audience with some stunning singing. One member of the audience on Sunday said that “the ladies chorus was not a chorus, instead they were like leading ladies all vocally capable of singing solo in the show with harmonies on point and diction being perfect”.
Sean Gaffney, a relative newcomer, really made the role of the Pirate King his own. His interaction with the Musical Director Kevin Kennedy and the timing of his comedic lines added much to this production. Frederic, played by Kevin Reade, was a confident performance and his duets with Mabel were really appreciated by the audience. What can you say about the Major General, played by Kilkenny College teacher Matthew Berry? Certainly, if Sunday night is anything to go by, the Major General’s song was probably the highlight for many. Being born in England probably gave Matt the edge in playing this character but what a performance.
Another stalwart of the Kilkenny stage Olivia Smith gave a brilliant performance as Ruth with her Scottish accent a lovely touch. The trio with the Pirate King and Frederic in Act 2 was another highlight in a show which never lost pace from start to finish. And then we had the policemen led by the evergreen John Byrne as the Sergeant of Police. I found it incredible, on perusing the excellent programme, that John played the part of the Sergeant of Police in 1986 in The Friary Hall.
He certainly has not lost any zest and the energy and cartoon like antics he brought to this role was superb. For this writer “When the Foeman Bears his Steel” was the highlight of the night, especially when you had the full chorus and orchestra with the brass section in full flow. Another very poignant moment was the “Hail Poetry” chorus in Act 1 where the full company were seen to great effect in
spot on harmonies with no accompaniment.
Mayor Sean O hArgain addressed the cast back stage after the performance. He was visibly moved by the production describing it as “superb”. He quoted some visitors from Winchester in the UK who were sitting next to him in the audience. They had said that they had never seen anything as good as this in the UK. President of AIMS Richard Lavery also spoke to the cast and congratulated them
on a great performance. He mentioned that the perception was that there was not an audience for Gilbert and Sullivan Shows anymore but Kilkenny had certainly proved this wrong.
“Pirates of Penzance” continues at the Watergate until this Saturday and people are advised to book early.