A full house of 540 revelled in a simply outstanding open air performance from Illyria on a calm evening of sudden sunshine at Lytham Hall. The east lawn at the Hall, with an attractive backdrop of trees, proved to be a new and attractive setting for performers and audience alike.
Members of many Lancashire G and S and musical groups formed a knowledgeable jury as a significant part of an attentive audience.
The first class singing of each member of the seven strong cast brought their cheers and applause, as they combined humour, energy and superb singing throughout, sympathetically accompanied by musical director Richard Healey on keyboards.
The expressive Jenny Cullen as Mabel, the towering Sam Wright as the Pirate King and the ever-sprightly Matthew James Willis as Frederic, all sing delightfully and every number is enhanced by appealing and often deliberately ridiculous choreography.
Alex Weatherhill, making his Illyria debut, puts his own individualistic take on the role of the Modern Major-General, richly comical in an understated way and clearly spoken in the fastest of patter songs.
Director Oliver Gray recognises that the satire in Pirates comes from its silliness and he uses all his famed ingenuity with props, sound effects, costumes, set and doubling up to bring humour to every scene.
Rachel Lea-Gray is a joy to watch and hear as the Sergeant and Stephanie Lysé and Elizabeth Chadwick bring commitment and presence to their roles and are at the heart of the chorus singing which is a real eye-opener to those schooled in the stately Savoy style.
The Lytham Hall audience, the largest of Illyria’s two month nationwide summer tour, came with high standards and expectations and went away happily, saying that Illyria had shown young and old alike that Gilbert and Sullivan is very much alive and kicking in the twenty first century.