HMS Pinafore

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Carl Rosa Company at Norwich Theatre Royal

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Give three cheers and one cheer more! HMS Pinafore has come back, ship shape and Bristol fashion, laden with catchy tunes and toe-tapping rhythms, with romance and satire, and even a drop of old-fashioned patriotism.

The Carl Rosa Company does not strain for originality. Instead, it wisely takes Gilbert and Sullivan's “nautical comic opera” at face value, knowing how audiences enjoy its rich cargo of tradition. The situations, like the jokes and the music, are old friends. Part of the fun is looking out for them.

They are welcomed all the more happily because there is the right touch of novelty. So Colin Baker is greeted with more than just the respect due to a First Lord of the Admiralty. There is also curiosity to see just how well he will cope. In fact, he handles his role with real skill. Not a lot of voice, it is true, but every word rings clear, as he capers, confident enough not to need too much mannerism.

In support, director Timothy West and conductor Martin Handley muster a stout, melodious crew. Steven Page is the very model of a captain, lean of stature and commanding in voice. Rory Campbell also looks the part as the handsome tar, though not a ringing tenor, and Anne Bourne is a Josephine who might tempt any seaman to cross the Rubicon.

Vocally, Graham Stone is a fine Deadeye, even if he can't make your flesh creep, and Patricia Leonard is a winsome Buttercup. Leading the chorus of sisters, cousins and aunts, tireless Bridget Hardy deserves her man at the end.

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