After a sparkling, almost rollicking, first half Carl Rosa seemed to lose their way somewhat in a second half which lacked the vitality and sharpness of the first and became, instead, rather bogged down.
Gilbert and Sullivan is wonderful: Music which induces reflex foot tapping, opera, fun, satire for the masses. But, being so all-embracing it needs pace – snap crackle and pop.
It was nearly there; but not quite. Too often there was shouting of lines instead of precise articulation; and, particularly in Act II, a lack of imaginative choreography.
But, that takes nothing away from some interesting personal performances. Beverley Klein as Mrs Cripps (aka Little Buttercup) made the Portsmouth bumboat woman come alive with guile and the rolling Rs of a West Country accent and her little confidences with Captain Corcoran (Wyn Pencarreg) were meaningful, The captain was a commanding figure, his creamy baritone carried well and his bearing superior. His dealings with The Rt Hon Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, the head of the Queen’s Naveeee, played by Coronation Street’s John Savident, struck the right note.
Savident’s bumbling, at times hen-pecked, Admiral was well paced and not over played. He knows he doesn’t have the voice of a star and makes up for it with subtlety and mannerisms that enhance the character.
Dick Deadeye (Gareth Jones) had the cynicism and menace to match the part but, amusingly, sometimes forgot to limp and at other times limped with the wrong leg!
Olivia Safe, as Josephine, the Captain’s daughter, who eventually got her man, Ralph Rackstraw (Jeremy Finch) sang the notes well enough but needed just a little more finesse in her stage movements.
Conductor Martin Handley, unusually left-handed – as an orchestra player I think I might find that rather confusing – injected just the right variations of tempi. The essence of making G and S music interesting is tremendous light and shade. He had that element to a commendable degree.