The Pirates of Penzance, Wilton’s Music Hall

After a successful run last summer at Southwark’s Union Theatre, Sasha Regan’s boisterous, all-male cast relocate to the East End for a riotous evening.

With a score that makes no concession to all the female characters being played by men, some truly impressive falsettos are on display.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Alan Richardson’s Mabel, who delivers an astonishing performance with a range and precision that many a woman in the same role would die for.

With so much vocal excellence throughout, Fred Broom’s Major General disappoints in his signature solo, lacking the precision or diction that the number demands. He has no deficiency in comic delivery, however, and both he and Samuel J Holmes as Ruth manage to bring an emotional depth that other productions sometimes lack. Indeed, while Holmes’ portrayal of the lovelorn nurse is the closest this production comes to pantomime, he also provides a heartbreaking conclusion to the end of act one.

Reprising his role as Frederic, Russell Whitehead makes for a heroic leading man, heading up a company that works their hardest to wring the maximum amount of comedy from Gilbert and Sullivan’s work.
The comedy extends to Lizzie Gee’s choreography, which brings in much fast-paced, unspoken wit to match the libretto.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/27876/the-pirates-of-penzance)_

Wilton’s Music Hall, London, April 8-May 16
Authors: WS Gilbert and AS Sullivan
Director: Sasha Regan
Producer: Regan De Wynter, in association with Wilton’s Music Hall
Cast includes: Russell Whitehead, Alan Richardson, Ricky Rojas, Fred Broom, Samuel J Holmes, Michael Burgen
Choreography: Lizzie Gee
Musical direction: Chris Mundy
Running time: 2hr 20mins

Lord Arthur’s Bed, King’s Head

There are moments during this short play by Martin Lewton that seem to border on genius, only to be followed by several more moments of utter bewilderment.

Spencer Charles Noll and Ruaraidh Murray play gay couple Donald and Jim, who celebrate the first anniversary of their civil partnership by re-enacting tales of two Victorian cross-dressers and their relationship with Lord Arthur Clinton. The court case of Edward ‘Stella’ Boulton and Frederick ‘Fanny’ Park, while little known today, is something of a landmark case in the course of England’s ambivalent attitude to homosexuality, and is one of the first recorded instances of the word drag being used in its now familiar sense. Lewton’s script presents the case in an interesting way, only failing to work when he tries to create parallels to 21st century gay life in Britain.

Noll in particular displays a flair for character transformation, playing each of his multiple roles with precision – a quality useful for an audience that has to cope with a story that bounces around time frames and storylines at a fair pace.

Murray has the harder problem, coping with a contemporary character who is saddled with a neurosis about his own homosexuality that comes and goes at a whim. His fear of being outed at work seems out of place with his modern London lifestyle in a way that devalues any sense of peril the script tries to imply. The faults with the creation of that character are ultimately this otherwise promising play’s undoing.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/27439/lord-arthurs-bed)_

King’s Head Theatre, London, March 2-April 10
Author/director: Martin Lewton
Producer: Theatre North
Cast: Spencer Charles Noll, Ruaraidh Murray
Running time: 1hr 10mins

La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

No matter how brash, how funny, how camp La Cage aux Folles gets – and it is frequently all three at once – it is at its best in the moments of quiet, defined as they are by the freneticism that surround them.

Philip Quast, returning to the role of Georges that he held in this production’s original run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, is the quintessential light entertainment showman, running the Riviera’s best transvestite show bar and barely keeping the athletic dancers, the Cagelles, in check.

Georges’ home life provides the spur for the show’s plot, as his son Jean-Michel (Stuart Neal) tries to ‘straighten up’ his family in preparation for meeting his right wing prospective father in law. This means the enforced absence of Georges’ temperamental partner Albin, who is determined not to be sidelined quietly.

And it is Roger Allam’s performance as Albin that defines the dramatic shape of the show. His vocal performance, while it is not of the calibre of Quast’s, conveys the emotion of a man whose 20-year relationship risks being swept under the carpet. For all the sequins, feathers and mascara, the single element that defines La Cage aux Folles is a brief moment of stillness at the head of the show’s principal number, I Am What I Am. Allam is the master of the unspoken, and a single pause is simply heartbreaking.

The biggest laughs may come from Jason Pennycooke’s puckish servant Jacob, but the strength of the whole cast helps one overlook some of the weaker numbers and instead revel in a joyous, warm-hearted, still subversive comedy.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/24371/la-cage-aux-folles)_

**Playhouse, London**, May 11-January 9
**Authors:** Jerry Herman (music and lyrics), Harvey Fierstein (book), based on the play by Jean Poiret
**Director:** Terry Johnson
**Producers:** Chocolate Factory Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions, David Ian Productions, The Ambassador Theatre Group, David Mirvish, Tulchin/Bartner, Jamie Hendry
**Cast includes:** Roger Allam, Philip Quast, Stuart Neal, Jason Pennycooke, Tracie Bennett, Alicia Davies
**Running time:** 2hr 45min