Penzance’s Perfect Pirates

Sam Audas-Ryan, Mason Penny and Jessica Scott in 'The Pirates of Penzance Jr.' Catch the performance at the Civic Theatre tonight and tomorrow night from 7pm. IMAGE Lucas Lynam and Liam McDonald (Ignatius Park College)

When I was in high school, I was the star of one of our productions. It was incredible. I was on stage for the entire performance, and stayed in-character perfectly. Mind you, I was playing a rock so as long as I was still, I was ‘in-character.’

Needless to say, I walk into high school theatre with no expectations: every performance is different, and every role – from Belle right down to dancing teacup #8 – has its time to shine.

This has never been more accurate than last night, when The Pirates of Penzance Jr was brought to the Civic Theatre by Ignatius Park College, St Margaret Mary’s and St Patrick’s College.

I do have to admit a bias at this stage, because I have known Sam Audas-Ryan (Frederic) for close to a year now. But all bias aside, Sam can sing like a dove and act rings around the entire cast of Neighbours. You see the battle between Frederic’s innocence, loyalty and sense of duty all play out in Sam’s expressions throughout the performance, and he is complemented by a chorus of other extremely talented cast members.

I’m not a psychic or anything, but there is a very high chance that Teal Warner (Mabel) has been possessed by the spirit of an 1800s Italian opera singer. When she first waltzed onto stage and opened her mouth, it definitely didn’t sound like the voice of a grade 11 St Patrick’s student – there were a lot of gasps and questions of ‘is that really coming from her mouth?’ in the audience around me, and the amazement continued as Teal hit every note and, joined by the Major-General’s other daughters, provided a beautifully soft companion to the rest of the musical.

The Major-General himself, played by Max Penny, was one of two comedic stand-outs for me. I have been trying to rap successfully for years and can’t sing anything faster than Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’, so when ‘I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General’ started, I could barely contain my jealousy. The speed and fluidity at which Max sang was amazing, and the entire cast should be commended when they joined in and could keep up just as well. Max’s mannerisms, from the shake in his voice through to hitching up his robe above his compression stockings, made me believe that he really had rolled straight in from the Rowes Bay Retirement Village: his acting was impeccable.

Comedic masterpiece number two came in the form of Ben Wilmen’s Sergeant and his rag-tag team of police. Everything about their march on stage was in-sync, but still managed to look clumsy, confused and – in one word – hilarious. Despite everything else happening on stage, my eyes couldn’t help but wander back to the facial expressions of each member of the police and posit how they could continue to get more and more outlandish and humorous. If that’s what being a police officer is like, I want to sign up.

Other special mentions go out to Pirate King, Mason Penny and Jessica Scott’s Ruth (the audience was on your side during ‘Oh False One’, there were a few angry comments around us about Frederic after that!). If you are Townsville’s next generation of talent, then we are in good hands for the next 50 years.

In conclusion, I really can’t stress how incredibly well put-together this production is considering it features such a large number of students from three schools spread across Townsville. Organising a quick lunchtime rehearsal is hard enough when students have exam preparation and sport practice thrown in the mix – but would be made galaxies more difficult when your dancing partner is on the other side of town. The time and effort that would have gone into organising times for rehearsals and coordinating between the schools is applaudable in itself, but is even more amazing when you take into account the final product. Full praise must go to Director Zara McGregor, Assistant Director Leo Hogan and Assistant to the Director Sophie Morris for piecing together such a performance. The Pirates of Penzance Jr is quirky, funny, and is led by a cast of Townsville’s most promising future stars. Don’t miss it.

Catch The Pirates of Penzance Jr performed by Ignatius Park College in association with St Margaret Mary’s and St Patrick’s College at the Civic Theatre tonight and tomorrow night at 7pm. Click here for tickets.

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