Gilbert & Sullivan's recent resurgence in popularity continues apace this spring with the return of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's revival of the duo's 1880 classic The Pirates of Penzance. The operetta opens at the Savoy Theatre on 24 April 2001 (previews from 20 April) and continues to 16 June.

When D'Oyly Carte first brought the production to the West End - via the Queen's Theatre - in 1998, it was the company's first appearance in the West End for a decade. Since then D'Oyly Carte has had successes with G&S's The Mikado and HMS Pinafore, both of which have been nominated for Outstanding Musical Production in the 2001 Laurence Olivier Awards.

This time, The Pirates of Penzance will be installed at the Savoy Theatre, D'Oyly Carte's "home" venue. In 1876 Richard D'Oyly Carte formed the Comedy Opera Company and the following year produced The Sorcerer, his first collaboration with Gilbert and Sullivan. The ensuing success of their partnership enabled D'Oyly Carte to build the Savoy in 1882. It was the first public building to be lit throughout by electricity. The theatre was virtually destroyed by fire in 1990 but, after extensive refurbishments, it reopened in 1993. D'Oyly Carte continues to be dedicated to producing faithful recreations of the Savoy Operas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

In The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic, a slave to duty, thinks he has finally completed his apprenticeship to a band of pirates when he turns 21. However, his attempts to follow a more honourable profession are scuppered when he realises he was born on February 29 of a leap year - and thus his apprenticeship has many, many more years to run. The score includes 'Poor Wandering One', 'I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General', 'The Sergeant of Police' and 'Policeman's Chorus'.

This is the second major production of The Pirates of Penzance which has hit the capital in less than a year. Last summer, the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park mounted a highly successful revival which has also garnered several Olivier nominations: Best Actor in a Musical (for Jimmy Johnston as the Pirate King), Best Director (for Ian Talbot) and yet another for Outstanding Musical Production.

D'Oyly Carte's production is directed by Stuart Maunder, with musical direction by John Owen Edwards and choreography by Lindsay Dolan. It is presented in the West End by Raymond Gubbay.

Currently at the Savoy, The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Patricia Routledge, is booking until 21 March 2001.

- by Terri Paddock