Sunday, March 2, 2008

Gielgud Theatre

Last night I saw Pirates of Penzance at the Gielgud. It is a very pretty theatre, with an oval-shaped gallery on the second floor. Getting to the stalls is a rather odd experience, with a twisting, stepped corridor, but in walking around I discovered there's no way to get from the two lower floors to the balcony. It has its own entrance on the street, which apparently someone has to explain to the arriving crowd at every performance.

I saw the closing performance of Pirates, which was a limited run of a Gilbert and Sullivan series (including a traditional version of The Mikado as well as Iolanthe) from the Carl Rosa Opera Company. I'd not seen it since the Joseph Papp production on Broadway, which I found too twee and kidding the material too much. This one was more reverential, probably closer to the original production, with energetic performances and for the most part, well sung. The standout was Beverley Klein as Ruth, who sang well but also was quite funny. I didn't particularly care for Jo Brand as the Sergeant of Police. There was a bit too much elbowing in the ribs and winking at the audience for me. She is clearly well-loved, pleasing those around me a great deal but it took me out of the play. I prefer these things to be played straight. Overall, however, it was bright and jolly and my hat is off to the Carl Rosa company for keeping these things alive.

As it states on Wikipedia, the Gielgud was originally built as the Hicks Theatre after actor-playwrite Seymour Hicks, but just three years later was renamed the Globe. Poor Seymour -- so much for immortality. Along the twisting corridors were many framed photos, caracatures and posters of Gielgud, Noel Coward and Beatrice Lillie. The great Coward plays of the 1930s played here. One could just imagine the smart crowds in their furs and tails having cocktails in the upper bar.

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