Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance, Palace Theatre

Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance proves a feast for ears and the eyes in a glorious but short at the Palace Theatre

“Here, in this our rocky den,
Far away from mortal men”

There’s a beautiful sense of homecoming to the return of Gilbert & Sullivan to the West End, even if its only for a weekend. The Palace Theatre was founded by Richard D’Oyly Carte as The Royal English Opera House in 1891 and opened with Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Ivanhoe so the arrival there of Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance could hardly be more apposite and turned out to be a real festive treat. 

We don’t see much operetta around these days but Regan’s commitment to the cause has been admirable. It’s over a decade now since she first reinvigorated the form with this production (previously reviewed here and here), and working her way through the G&S catalogue (for my money, Iolanthe is the best), transfers, national tours and even international tours are a testament both to the enduring quality of the material and the frisson that comes from this method of interpretation.  Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance, Palace Theatre”

Sasha Regan’s All Male ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ cast announced, plus second date in the West End

Sasha Regan’s All Male The Pirates of Penzance cast announced, plus second date in the West End confirmed

Nimax Theatres have added a second night for Sasha Regan’s all-male take on W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.  The show will now run on Saturday 12th December and Sunday 13th December 2020 at 7:00pm.  

The production was meant to open at Wilton’s Music Hall and then tour but those plans have had to be cancelled and postponed respectively. For the uninitiated, Regan’s reinvigoration of this classic is a corker, I’ve seen it a couple of times now over the years and it never fails to delight. Continue reading “Sasha Regan’s All Male ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ cast announced, plus second date in the West End”

Review: Iolanthe, Richmond Theatre

A much welcome revival for Sasha Regan’s all-male Iolanthe, bringing Gilbert and Sullivan to Richmond Theatre as part of a UK tour

“What’s the use of being half a fairy?”

Delving into deep into your wardrobe can get you into all sorts of bother. With CS Lewis, you could end up in the wintry woods of Narnia and with Sasha Regan, you might find yourself in the dress-up fantasy world of light operetta. Of all of her all-male Gilbert and Sullivan productions, Iolanthe is the one which I remember most fondly (its transfer to Wilton’s Music Hall perfectly done) so the news that it was the choice for this year’s revival for a UK tour left me tripping hither and thither in excitement. 

And though I was a little apprehensive to revisit so beloved a production, this Iolanthe has stood up well. Mark Smith’s choreography with its suggestions of sign language for fairy speak, Stewart Charlesworth’s design making full use of the jumble box aesthetic, and Regan’s astute direction milking a show that’s more than a century old for all of its considerable comic potential and finding room for her own innovations as well. With MD Richard Baker controlling the music from his solo piano, this remains an arresting take on your G&S. Continue reading “Review: Iolanthe, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Mikado, Richmond

(c) Scott Rylander

“They are not young ladies…”

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Sasha Regan alighted on a winning formula with her stripped-back all-male takes on Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and has toured the likes of The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore the length and breadth of the country and even to Australia. So it is little surprise to see her turn to The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu) to see if lightning can strike again with joyous shout and ringing cheer.

The production is set in the grounds of a 1950s-ish school camping trip, a canny move which neatly sidesteps some of the Orientalism issues and refocuses G+S’s satire on the English political establishment. And with the score for solo piano confidently played by musical director Richard Baker, the harmonious meld of the 16-strong company sounds like a dream, and don’t look half bad either delivering Holly Hughes’ effervescent choreography. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Mikado, Richmond”

Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Hackney Empire

“The gentleman is quite right. If you please” 

If you have seen one of Sasha Regan’s all-male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, then you know exactly what you’re getting with HMS Pinafore; if you haven’t, then there’s many a pleasant surprise in store. This production of the evergreen show has been seen before, at the Union in 2013 and on tour in 2014 but is being reprised here for another UK tour stretching from Yorkshire to Cornwall and it remains as refreshing as a Fisherman’s Friend.

Regan’s approach sees Sullivan’s score stripped back to solo piano, musical director Richard Bates doing sterling work from the keys, and Gilbert’s book performed by a set of 16 strapping sailors, the conceit here being performance as a way of passing the time, to lift spirits flagging a little after receiving letters from their loved ones. It’s a canny framing device and one which works effectively with hardly any tinkering with the plot at all. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Hackney Empire”

Review: The Pirates of Penzance, Richmond Theatre

“We can’t make piracy pay”

Gilbert and Sullivan’s titular buccaneers may struggle with a lack of a ruthless edge but Sasha Regan’s sharp eye means that piracy definitely pays as her all-male interpretation of The Pirates of Penzance enters a fifth year of swashbuckling success. From its initial run at the Union Theatre in 2009 and subsequent transfer to Wilton’s Music Hall, it has toured Australia, played the Hackney Empire and now returns for a UK tour which runs through to the end of June.

And getting to gaily tread the measure one more time was indeed an especial pleasure once again. In the august surroundings of Richmond’s Victorian theatre, the set design may look a little spare but once the stage is filled with heaving bodies – whether preening with piratical glee, gambolling in corsets or patrolling a policeman’s lot, or indeed all three at the same time, the musical spectacle of these eighteen lads, plus pianist, is quite something to behold. Continue reading “Review: The Pirates of Penzance, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Union Theatre

“We’re sober, sober men and true”

The Union’s all male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan has become a reliable institution on the theatrical calendar and this year is no exception with their revival of HMS Pinafore (Or The Lass That Loved A Sailor) which they last delivered back in 2007. This interpretation starts off onboard a ship in the 1940s as a group of young sailors are killing time on their bunkbeds. As one strikes up a tune on his handy recorder, so the show slides into place as a little amusement for these men and it’s a neat way of subtly justifying the all-male conceit, with makeshift costumes just thrown together from whatever is at hand, playing up the inventive feel of the whole enterprise.

And with Regan’s sure hand at the tiller, Lizzi Gee’s choreography sweeping across the deck and Chris Mundy’s nimble fingers billowing the musical sails, it makes for a successful voyage across the Southwark seas. The playfulness of the concept makes for guileless pleasures – the nifty twist of a neckerchief turns a sailor into a sister (or a cousin, or an aunt) and Gee makes the most of the ensemble’s physicality with routines based around skipping ropes and press-ups, and the interlocking movements of different groups is beautifully realised using the sheer simplicity of Ryan Dawson-Laight’s design. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male HMS Pinafore, Union Theatre”