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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive    Pirates Cast Changes 1881


At the Opéra Comique Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan’s charming extravaganza, The Pirates of Penzance, continues to be as attractive as ever, 287 performances having been unable to satisfy all the playgoers in town and country who patronize the pretty little theatre in the Strand.

The uninterrupted run of the piece has, on the one hand, heavily told on the performers, the original cast having in consequence undergone several modifications, the most important of these has taken place in the part of Mabel, the soft-hearted heroine. It is at present in the hands of Miss Emilie Petrelli, who with a graceful and agreeable stage presence combines sufficient vocal skill to comply with Mr. Sullivan’s by no means easy demands in a creditable manner. Although not in every respect equal to her predecessor, Miss Petrelli may be called a very acceptable representative of her rôle.

The same cannot be said of Mr. Durward Lely, who takes the part of Frederic, the dutiful apprentice of the pirates. His acting and enunciation of the words, with and without music, leave much to be desired. On the other hand, Miss Alice Barnett (also not in the original cast) as Ruth could not have been more satisfactory. Mr. George Grossmith, who has been faithful to his duty from the beginning, continues to delight the audience, and 287 repetitions have taken nothing from the incomparable freshness of Mr. Rutland Barrington’s humour. He remains the very prototype of a leader of policemen. Mr. Richard Temple, the truculent pirate king, also is as amusing as ever, Mr. George Temple acting as his faithful ancient, or lieutenant.

There is every chance that the run of The Pirates of Penzance will complete the circle of the year, or, for all we know, continue into a second. The Christmas series of morning performances of H.M.S. Pinafore by the children’s company came to a close on Friday, and the clever young artists immediately start on a tour in the provinces. It may be safely predicted that their cruise will be accompanied by success. H.M.S. Pinafore, wherever and howsoever it has been performed, on the stage or in the concert-room, or in a real ship on a real lake, as was done in America, by amateurs or professional singers or children, has never yet failed to meet with that approval which is due to genuine humour and pretty music.

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