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Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater )

148 customer reviews

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(Oct 22, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Gilbert and Sullivan's raucous operatic tale is captured in all it's fun and glory in this production. Kevin Kline ( A Fish Called Wanda) sparkles as the swashbuckling and libidinous Pirate King while Linda Ronstandt plays the lovely and virginal Mabel.

This Pirates of Penzance is primarily a historical document, part of the Broadway Theater Archive television series. It presents, with some inevitable, tiny technical shortcomings, a live 1980 performance in Central Park, not the 1983 movie of the same name that also starred Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline. Those who remember that film, which had the benefit of retakes and editing, a lavish production budget, and the spaciousness of a Hollywood studio, may find this video less polished. On its own terms, it is nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable.

Advantages of this live performance include a sense of spontaneity, and the feeling of being part of a theatrical audience that is visibly and audibly having a very good time. The (reduced and partly electronic) orchestra is also visible; scenery is minimal; the onstage pirate boat, excellent for a live production, is no match for what a movie can offer. The voices are uneven, and some of them evoke Broadway more than London. But the performance is well styled, lively, and energetic. Gilbert and Sullivan's witty sparkle comes through clearly. --Joe McLellan

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kevin Kline, George Rose, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Patricia Routledge
  • Directors: Joshua White, Wilford Leach
  • Writers: William S. Gilbert
  • Producers: Joseph Papp
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 22, 2002
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006RCMW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,829 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater )" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ordinarily, I wouldn't be writing this, because I was a part of this production, the Broadway show and the movie version--but I'm THRILLED that this live performance, made as an archival tape, and not intended for commercial release, is finally available. Maybe you'll see why it was such a mega-hit (hundreds were turned away every night for the entire summer it played under the stars at the Delacorte in Central Park) that it HAD to go to Broadway! (It's also a better record of the show than the movie version)
I won't comment on the performances other than to note that Patricia Routledge was a wonderful Ruth, with the best legit singing voice of anyone who played her (Estelle Parsons and Kaye Ballard on Broadway, Angela Lansbury in the film). She got big laughs every night, and was the only Ruth to end up with Kevin Kline's Pirate King (much funnier that way). If you've only seen her singing off-key as Hyacinth in "Keeping Up Appearances," you'll be surprised--the "My love without reflecting/Don't beloved master" section of Ruth & Frederic's "O False One" was changed from a duet to a solo because of her beautiful performance.
Actually, TWO songs were interpolated. "My Eyes Are Fully Open" (aka "It Really Doesn't Matter") was a trio from "Ruddigore." "Sorry Her Lot" was added to take advantage of Linda Ronstadt's ability with a ballad. She was an ensemble player from the first sing-thru and never asked for any special treatment. It was very brave of her to take the risk of singing an operatic part (reaching an E-flat above high C) 8 times a week--who knew she could do it? By the way, Linda got a well-deserved Tony nomination for her efforts!
So if you're interested in live theater, give this "Pirates" a chance.
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196 of 212 people found the following review helpful By Craig Gustafson on June 13, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The complaints I've been reading here are:
1. Why didn't they tell me that this isn't the Angela Lansbury version? (If you had looked for Lansbury's name in the description, you would have noticed its absence.)
2. The video quality is sub-par! (Knowing in advance that this was recorded outdoors over twenty years ago, I was prepared for less-than-broadcast quality.)
3. It's LIVE... EEEEWWWwwwww! (Get a grip.)
I like the 1983 movie version a lot. But this version kicks the movie version's buttocks so thoroughly that I probably won't order it when it becomes available.
Patricia Routledge's performance is ten times better than Angela Lansbury's. In the movie Lansbury, after several years of playing Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd", apparently was sick of Cockney dialects, and played Ruth as Irish. It didn't work and she wasn't that funny. Routledge is funny and has a gorgeous voice.
What is glorious about seeing the live performance is the energy that the cast gets from the audience reactions. George Rose, after the Major General song, isn't applauded... he's CHEERED. There is no way that this type of response can fail to pump up the cast.
This really is the type of material seen best with audience reaction, the same reason that films like "Noises Off" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" don't really work. If you love theatricality, this is for you.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By K. Sullivan VINE VOICE on April 15, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For those who revel in polished audio and visual and the latest and greatest in those technologies, this DVD is probably just not for you. On the other hand, if you love theater - raw, live, intimate - then this is as good as it gets. Personally, I love a live show and this performance definitely hits the spot.

In fairness, the DVD quality is not as rough as some would seem to suggest. I was scared I wouldn't be able to make out any words or faces based on some of the reviews. At the end of the day, it is an 80's quality video preserved on DVD. Of course, the beauty of the DVD is that you can skip to your favorite parts (which I find very handy) and it will not wear through repeated playback like a video.

As to the performance itself, spectacular. I personally feel some of it drags a bit - but that is just owing to my own particular taste. I would rather laugh at the back story of Frederic's apprenticeship to pirates due to Ruth's hearing impairment, or revel with the joy it is to be a Pirate King, or most particularly dance about and laugh as the inept police do their thing than hear some of Ronstadt's/Mabel's "arias" (I was a little surprised that her voice and acting were not quite on par with my expectation). Some sections drag a bit for me (others will find them the highlight, I am sure), but the highs are absolutely enjoyable!

And the individual performances must be applauded. Kline hams it up beautifully as the Pirate King. Smith conveys wonderfully his innocence and a sense of duty. Routledge does wonderfully as his maid, Ruth. And as others have highlighted, the Major General really brings out the best of his role and the audience. All that being said, I'm a sucker for the policemen. Their dancing about and general goofiness is wonderful.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carrie on July 21, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Unlike many of the reviewers here, I read the description of the DVD before I purchased it, so I knew this was a recording of a live performance. I already own the Angela Lansbury movie version on VHS and wanted it on DVD, but since this was not available, I thought I'd get the Delacorte Theater version.

Okay, so the video and audio quality appalled me at first. Then I got into the whole live performance experience and was able to appreciate the individual actors. George Rose--stunning. He was born to be on stage--a fact you really can't appreciate in the comparatively hokey film version. Kevin Kline is just as maniacally funny in the film version as the stage version, but in the stage version you get caught up in the energy he creates with the audience response. Patricia Routledge is excellent in the stage version, far superior in voice and acting to Angela Lansbury in the film version. Rex Smith is astounding--what a crime his career didn't take off from this. His voice and acting sent chills down my spine. He's good in the film version, too, but to see him live is something you should not miss. Linda Ronstadt is fine vocally in a very demanding role and takes chances I think no operatic singer would. The quality of her voice is better in the film version--no surprise there--but consider her singing that role night after night, outdoors, with the wind blowing and the moths flying around, and you'll realize her performance on stage is close to miraculous. Tony Azito is excellent in both versions, but again, the audience response to the bumbling policemen makes the stage version much more appealing.

How I wish a better recording of this show existed. That being said, I'm grateful it exists at all.
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