Rollicking good time with the ‘Pirates’

Andrew Moore (Frederic), Judith Hill (Ruth), Raymnd Hill (Samuel) and David Lovell (Pirate King) in The Pirates of Penzance
Andrew Moore (Frederic), Judith Hill (Ruth), Raymnd Hill (Samuel) and David Lovell (Pirate King) in The Pirates of Penzance

Even the conductor is done up as a patriotic pirate, complete with fancy waistcoat and union flag, for The Pirates of Penzance at the Pomegranate this week.

Jo Howland swaps her leading lady shoes for the director’s chair in Chesterfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s colourful production: their fourth time around for this favourite with the fans.

The songs are familiar, the story not much less so, and it’s hard to find a fresh approach that will appeal to die-hard G & S fans. Give or take the odd topical joke (bankers and plebs both got a mention), Chesterfield G & S don’t even try; they go for the strictly traditional.

The large chorus is tuneful and lively. The ladies, many of them unusually youthful, don’t have a great deal to do except look chocolate-box pretty in Edwardian-style dresses, but they do that very well.

The pirates are boisterous and picturesque, in bright-hued waistcoats and hankies on their heads; David Lovell’s poseur Pirate King is in good voice, strutting and swashbuckling with the best of them.

The policemen are as daft as ever, getting up to all kinds of antics with truncheons and ivy leaves, led by David Stokes as a Sergeant from the John Cleese school of silly walks.

Andy Moore’s ex-pirate Frederic reveals rock star ambitions in his big Act One solo, and Rachael-Louise Bray’s lisping Mabel starts out flirty and soon shows an aptitude for melodrama.

Phil Aldred carries off Major-General Stanley in fine twirling-moustached style, clad first in uniform then nightshirt – with teddy bear, of course.

Star of the show for me is Judith Hill as Ruth, the piratical maid-of-all-work. The role gives her a chance to show off both her fine mezzo soprano voice and her flair for comedy.

Another success for this popular company.