HMS Pinafore at the Savoy Theatre (December 2002)

“As Buttercup, Della Jones uses every part of her characterful voice, acting as a pantomimic fairy godmother with Welsh accent and rampant libido. As Sir Joseph Porter, Sam Kelly exhibits commendable clarity of diction, sung or spoken. Tom McVeigh, as Captain Corcoran, gamely affects the vulnerability of a public school twit (and) Josephine, played last night by Alison Rae Jones, offered a sense of fragility and fragrance. Feathers protruding from her hat, a bespectacled and adorable Sophie-Louise Dann plays the part of Hebe as an antiquated but lively, handbag wielding busybody.

There was fine work from the supporting chorus of sailors, aunts and cousins, and the playing from the small orchestra …was commendable in its crisp exactitude.”
Stephen Pettitt – Evening Standard

“This is neo-D’Oyly Carte, thank goodness, bright and streamlined, with the cobwebs blown away, but still true to the essential traditions. Both words and music sparkle as they should.

Sam Kelly’s portrayal of Sir Joseph Porter, Ruler of the Queen’s Navee, is masterly.
Della Jones is a well-built Buttercup with an engaging Welsh lilt, and Sophie-Louise Dann works wonders with the relatively small part of Hebe, Sir Joseph’s interfering cousin.”
Sunday Telegraph

“Gilbert’s satire on class distinctions and official pomposity is as timely and as witty as ever, while Sullivan’s melodies remain maddeningly infectious. Martin Duncan’s production gets the right balance between text and music with razor sharp diction from a largely opera trained cast.

Tom McVeigh, his posture stiff with upper-crust hauteur, is a cool and supercilious Captain Corcoran, Gareth Jones, a delightful curmudgeonly Dick Deadeye and Sophie Louise Dann amusingly irritating as myopic, interfering spinster Hebe.

The fun extends to Tim Hatley’s bold, streamlined art deco sets, which resemble a huge blow-up of a poster for Cunard’s White Star line. Setting off Hatley’s designs to perfection are the terrifically camp male chorus of sailors, twinkling in skimpy singlets and fetching black boots, and the simpering female chorus of ‘sisters, cousins and aunts’.”
Jason Best – The Stage

“Martin Duncan’s production, with a delightful airy design of the Pinafore’s quarterdeck by Tim Hatley, has exactly the freshness, charm and cheek the show demands. What a pleasure it is, too, to hear the company singing so beautifully and so audibly without the overamplification that blights so many musicals today. The pit band, under the baton of John Owen Edwards, is also first-rate.

Della Jones is a delight as Buttercup, while Alison Rae Jones and Joseph Shovelton gleefully send up the conventions of romantic melodrama as the young lovers.

It’s an exceptionally winning show, so give three cheers and one cheer more for this splendid staging of the Pinafore.”
Charles Spencer – The Telegraph

“Martin Duncan’s witty, bulgingly tongue-in-cheek production brings G&S fizzingly up to date without cheapening or vulgarizing the great Savoy Operas tradition.

The slickly choreographed chorus of toe-tapping tars and tottering cousins, sisters and aunts would grace any West End show. Treat yourself.”
David Gillard – The Daily Mail

“This production) lights up the December sky with gaiety and good tunes.

Joseph Shovelton fills the young hero’s shoes so crisply and mellifluously that you forget the difficulties of his task.

You’re guaranteed a good time.”
Geoff Brown – The Times

Mikado at the Savoy Theatre (July 2002)

“Ian Judge’s production certainly gets it right, the laughs (and there are lots) coming mainly from the silliness of the English japing at being Japanese.”
David Gillard – The Daily Mail

“In one sense the joke of The Mikado has today been turned on its head: instead of an English passion for all things Japanese, there is now a Japanese fashion for all things English, and sure enough this production contains its fair share of World Cup jokes. But the piece survives as much through Sullivan’s irresistible melodies as Gilbert’s book and, thanks to John Owen Edwards’ lively musical direction, Self’s Katisha and a notably well-sung Yum-Yum from Jacqueline Varsey, this production sends you away a much happier being.”
Michael Billington – The Guardian

“Top marks go to the strong young voices of the D’Oyly Carte chorus as well as to the choreography of Lyn Jolly, who creates impressive human stage-pictures on the minimal, versatile sets of Tm Goodchild. Gareth Jones’s baritone and Royce Mill’s comic timing excel, and gifted tenor Joseph Shovelton is damn near perfect as Nanki-Poo.”
Lisa Garham – Metro (London)

“The show is full of inventive wit – just look at the chorus of very English Japanese gentlemen tucking into their sushi – and as one inured to the over-amplification of West End musical, it is a rare pleasure to experience this wonderfully melodic operetta without the singers, or the excellent pit band, being amped up.”
Charles Spencer – The Daily Telegraph

“Watching John La Bouchardière’s revival of Ian Judge’s show, it’s hard to remember that 20 years ago the old D’Oyly Carte troupe was dying on its feet. Not any more. Even the chorus is virile-voiced and moves niftily in the smallest spaces.”

Geoff Brown – The Times

“Publicity has focused on comedian Jasper Carrott as Ko-Ko, the new Lord High Executioner. Initially subdued, he gets his first belly laugh adding a certain England goalkeeper to his list and tunefully comes into his own with the Titwillow solo, before sharing the triumph of a duet with Susannah Self’s gorgeous Katasha.”
John Thaxter – The Stage