87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirates in the Park--finally!
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...
Published on November 7, 2002
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Quality but still worth watching
The sound and picture quality was very poor on this DVD even though it had been restored. I did think that Kevin Kline and Rex Smith were much better in this performance than in the later version they did that is only available on VHS right now. The VHS version was very over acted where this one was more believable. But when I say the picture quality is poor, I mean...
Published on March 16, 2006 by L. M. Anderson
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87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirates in the Park--finally!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater ) (DVD)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.
187 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a Grip.,
This review is from: Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater ) (DVD)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.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rough audiovisual, but theatrically brilliant,
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This review is from: Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater ) (DVD)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. Their "leader" does a phenomenal job and his performance (vocally and physically) is my favorite part of the show.
If you are looking for an audiovisual masterpiece, please pass. You will be horrified. If, however, you love theater and want to have a jolly good time watching others perform with all their hearts, you can't go wrong with this production. These actors are relishing in their roles and really sold the performance. Great job!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely delightful!,
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars historical recording vs. film version,
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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. I've seen Pirates many times--live performances by the University of Michigan Gilbert & Sullivan society and local theater groups, the Angela Lansbury film version, and the Stratford Festival live perfomance on DVD (buy this if you can get it). But for sheer charm, energy, and just plain fun, the live Delacorte Theater performance is the one to watch.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars forget the movie, this is the version to get!,
Young Frederic is about to reach his 21st birthday and as such is allowed to leave his pirate apprenticeship if he so wishes. He falls in love with Mabel, one of the many daughters of the eccentric Major-General, but his happiness is short-lived. An eternal "slave to duty", Frederic finds himself back in the Pirate King's clutches due to a small technicality...
The original cast of this production is simply sublime, most of them went on to reprise their roles in a 1983 film version. Kevin Kline's Pirate King is equal parts swashbuckling rogue and clueless klutz; Rex Smith is perfect as the innocent young Frederic; Patricia Routledge brings full comedic and musical life to Ruth, the "piratical maid of all work"; and, in her theatre debut, Linda Ronstadt silenced her harshest critics by revealing a lilting yet merciless coloratura soprano voice as the beautiful Mabel. Tony Azito's Police Sergeant is wonderful, as is George Rose playing the tongue-twisting Major General with catlike precision. Delightful Alice Playten and Alix Korey lead the army of daughters. Graciela Daniele's choreography captures a sense of whimsy and frolic, with some great acrobatic moves for the pirates and a cute Keystone Kops-Tinkertoy routine for the policemen. This version of the show also includes interpolated pieces from "Ruddigore" and "H.M.S. Pinafore".
Linda Ronstadt's performance is especially good for a singer who was never trained in the classical roles. The role of Mabel is one of the most demanding female roles in the entire G&S canon, and she pulls off the feat with incredible skill and flair. Rex Smith perfectly partners her as Frederic and their duets are magical.
This was filmed on videotape in the early 80s, and the source is beginning to show it's age on this DVD release. The image is fuzzy and overexposed at times, bleaching out colours and details, but the stage lighting does not help matters either, causing a `blooming' and ghosting effect on the performer's costumes. The sound is easily heard but there are several instances of analogue wobble and tape-hiss. These shortcomings aside, having this historic performance captured at all is a blessing.
Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are full of froth and fun, but this PIRATES is so delightful that it's positively featherweight. An ideal way to spend a rainy weekend.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The very model of a modern major Gilbert and Sullivan show, and with Patricia Routledge,
Among the plot's coincidences, mistakes and surprises there is 21-year-old Frederic (Rex Reed), who was indentured as a babe to a pirate instead of a pilot by his hard-of-hearing nurse, Ruth (Patricia Routledge). "My mind has long been gnawed by the cankering tooth of mystery," she says before she tells us the story. "Let us have it out at once!" Frederic learns that leap years can greatly affect his age. He learns that the only woman he has ever seen, Ruth, has misled him about womanly beauty. It takes only one look at Major-General Stanley's daughter, Mabel (Linda Ronstadt), to see how misled he was. The Pirate King (Kevin Kline), who ends Frederic's indenture upon that 21st birthday, learns just how much a slave to duty is Frederic. Frederic feels he must turn in the pirates to the police. Major-General Stanley (George Rose), who knows nothing of military strategy but who has many beautiful and buxom daughters and wards, learns that pirates can fall in love with luscious young ladies as quickly as Frederic. And we learn that the Pirate King is an orphan, too. And so are all the pirates. Not only that, we learn that all the pirates are of noble bir...but I don't want to give too much away.
There's a little less satire and pomposity-puncturing by Gilbert in this play and more comic, romantic confusion. He and Sullivan concocted a charming, ridiculous fable of outlandish coincidences and sly situations. The Major-General is an endearingly pompous buffoon. His daughters are little nimble-toed crinoline dolls. The police are bumbling, tumbling young men more frightened of the pirates than the pirates are afraid of them. The five leads all do excellent work, particularly Rose, Kline and Routledge.
This is the filmed version of the 1980 Joseph Papp production that took place in Central Park's open-air Delacorte Theater. It was recorded during one of the live performances. Technically, it suffers, but the audience reaction and the response of the actors make it a great record of a charming hit. The show transferred to Broadway and Estelle Parsons took over the role of Ruth from Patricia Routledge. Then, when the show was restaged in Hollywood as a movie, Angela Lansbury took Ruth's role replacing Parsons. All the other major cast members stayed in place. If you want to see what an excellent musical comedy performer Routledge is, you'll want this version. The CD of The Darling of the Day, the 1968 Broadway musical play she co-starred in with Vincent Price, is still available. She's a fine singer.
Also keep an eye out for Alice Playten, who plays Edith, one of the Stanley daughters. She's one of the funniest, slyest Broadway actors never to have a major career. When she sings "Pets," "After All, I'm Only a School Girl" and "If You Like Les Belles Poitrines" from the CD "Ben Bagley's Unpublished Cole Porter-Volume II," she'd even make Porter blush.
This DVD is from the series issued by the Broadway Theater Archive. As noted, technically it leaves much to be desired but it can be watched with pleasure if you're not a perfectionist. There are no extras.
I think Major-General Stanley should have the last word:
I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joy! Rapture! Pirates!,
Much hullabullo was made when this show arrived: non-traditional singers/actors in a work almost historically bound by traditions. The orchestrations were sacked in favor of synthesizers, marimbas and such and on its own merits the score is delightful.
Technically, the video quality is a bit on the rough side, but give yourself a couple of minutes and you won't notice it. You'll be too busy getting caught up in the delightful high(and low!) jinx of the once-in-a-lifetime cast.
Ronstadt is ravishingly beautiful and in mostly terrific voice (a couple of incredibly high notes go a little wiry, but what the heck). This was her stage debut and as long as she's singing (which is most of the time) she's affective and loaded with charm. When speaking, alas, the pop diva ain't so convincing - but there's mercifully few of those moments.
Kevin Kline is a hoot and full of high camp as the Pirate King, impressively executing some tricky choreography by Graziella Danielle. George Rose IS the very model of a modern major general, Patricia Routledge is hilarious as Ruth and Rex Smith sounds terrific having a ball as Frederick.
Indeed the sense of live all-out-fun here is remarkable and more than a few musical moments pack some legitimate thrills. The Act I finale with its improbable lyrics "But they give up the felicity Of unbounded domesticity, Though a doctor of divinity Is located in this vicinity" gives
Ronstadt opportunity to let loose some legitimate soprano high notes and the sound is thrilling.
The audience is clearly relishing one whale of a good time and at times threaten to stop the show with cheers and applause.
There are many such moments and, well, heck, if you can't have a good time with this, I just give up!
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Not The Movie Version But It's Still Worth Watching!,
By A Customer
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 78RPM vs CD,
78RPM recording because it's a notable artist performing his
work, you'd enjoy this DVD. If you worry more about background
noise, audio quality and limited dynamic range, this DVD is
probably not for you.
I bought this thinking it was the PBS version. It's not...it's
a videotape transfer of a live production three years earlier,
with most of the same cast. As others have noted, the video and
audio quality is not all that great in places. But the energy of
the performers makes up for it, IMHO, and it's a fine production
of the venerable G&S "flagship".
I particularly enjoyed Kevin Kline's performance. Look for his
long-held-note that ends with a fall off the stage, or his
devious sneaking-up-on-the-Major-General which is interrupted
by the abominable placement of an *orchestra pit* right where
he'd figured to be sneaking. Even a bit of counterweighting by
Frederick doesn't help.
Linda Ronstadt's voice is heavenly. I've always enjoyed her singing,
and she makes it clear in this show that she has a lot of breadth
to her future, as her subsequent work made clear.
My biggest peeve about this DVD was the five minute promo reel that
starts it off, which I had difficulty wading through. Fast forward
eventually got us past it, but it was annoying. That's trivial though,
and I'm glad (in retrospect) that I bought this even if it wasn't
what I thought I was getting. I still want the later production on
DVD, whenever it's finally available.
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Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive (The Pirates of Penzance / Kline, Ronstadt, Smith, Routledge, Delacorte Theater ) by Wilford Leach (DVD - 2002)