13 April 2023

Community theatre at its best with Pirates taking centre stage

| Chris Roe
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Pirates of Penzance

Pirates of Penzance takes over the Civic Theatre in Wagga. Photo: Chris Roe.

There’s something special about seeing familiar faces performing on stage and this weekend’s run of Pirates of Penzance at Wagga’s Civic Theatre promises a smorgasbord of community excellence.

The Riverina Opera and Light Opera Company’s (ROLOC) inaugural show offers great music and plenty of laughs from the local cast of sword-wielding buccaneers, radiant maidens and bumbling police.

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The performers faced a live audience for the first time on Wednesday night and School Of Arts Community Theatre’s (SoACT) Fay Waters said it was great to see it all come together.

“I thought that the preview premiere was the launching platform for the whole show,” she said.

“The cast and crew were elated because everyone was so positive and so supportive and they haven’t had that audience response until now and I think it gave them the security they needed.”


Lyn Hogan and Iain Wright in the lead roles of Mabel and Frederick. Photo: Chris Roe.

She said people laughed in all the right places and the cast was able to lean into the comedy of the iconic Gilbert and Sullivan show.

“Of course, in rehearsal, nobody is laughing because they are all too worried about what was happening next, so that made a big difference to the timing and the realisation of the comedy that’s in the opera,” Fay said.

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It’s been a busy few weeks of rehearsal for the show that features live music and an overture performance from the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

A last-minute casting issue left them without one of the primary characters but fortunately, director and veteran performer Leigh Ladd was able to step in and deliver a perfect performance as the benighted Major General.

“Leigh has performed in Gilbert and Sullivan in Sydney and overseas and he knows that role, so he was just fabulous,” says Fay.


Director Leigh Ladd leads the cast from the front as the Major General. Photo: Chris Roe.

The preview premiere was a black-tie event for family, friends and local dignitaries, harking back to the early days of the theatre that is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

SoACT is one of Australia’s oldest theatre companies and was a big contributor to the facility.

“The Wagga School of Arts sold all their assets in the late 50s to contribute a third of the cost of the building of the Civic Theatre so they would have a permanent home and the whole community would have a great theatre,” Fay explained.

“They performed the first production in 1963 in the Civic Theatre when it opened and the foyer on that night very much resembled the foyer last night with people in furs and black tie and tuxedos.

“SoACT hasn’t performed there for 23 years, so it was a real coming home event for us.”


Pirates cast members at the Wagga Art Gallery. Photo: Supplied.

With the official opening tonight (Thursday 13 April) at 7:30 pm and four more shows through to Sunday, Pirates of Penzance is a chance to experience genuine community theatre on a professional stage with a live orchestra.

You can find out more and book your tickets here.

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