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on June 20, 2017
while the Kevin Klein version is near & dear to my heart, this version tickles my funny bone & is a delightful faster paced version in which hilarity ensues. The actors are less operatic stars than entertainers, but we've watched this as a family over 10 times & are always finding something new going on that we hadn't noticed before. To our surprise there are songs from Ruddigore thrown in, but placed in such a way that the result is brilliant !
Yes, Ruth's character is more campy barmaid than true singer.Yes, the Pirate king is an older gravely voiced rock star. Yes, Mabel's sisters are tarts that are ridiculous in the extreme.It very well may be that Mabel is the only actual opera singer in the bunch, though Frederick gives a swoon worthy performance ( much like Rex Smith in the Kevin Kline version). The music is electronic instead of a true orchestra & there are liberties taken with the tempo & lyrics.
But, it is a fresh take & really a good bit of fun for those for whom this operetta has gotten to be so well known that you don't mind a bit of spice.
Just watching the pirates dance in the beginning is a key to the heavy dose of vigor that is infused into this version.
Obviously not for G & S purists !
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on October 26, 2015
I saw this show live on multiple occasions as a kid in the mid-90s when my dad was stationed in Australia. We went as a family and enjoyed it so much. We were happy to get the show on VHS before we moved away. I'm so pleased to see this on DVD and it's definitely going to be a surprise Christmas gift for some of my family this year.

All the singing is terrific and there's a lot of silliness and slapstick. I love all the main characters, but I think Frederic has the best voice and the pirate king/head policeman are the most fun. I also think the cameramen did a good job capturing the scenes and side-gags going on, and the quality looks fine to me given how old it is. Having the live theater experience on DVD with the audience interaction is really neat as opposed to a movie which lacks that, and personally it takes me back to when I saw the show.

Given the modernization of this show, you could argue that a few small bits of this are PG. Overall I'd say it's great family fun.
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on August 1, 2012
This is not the traditional "Pirates", it's true. It's a descendant in spirit of Papp's 1980 New York production, and takes some of the same modern liberties while still standing on its own. So be prepared for a more openly comedic take, and one which breaks the fourth wall early and often. This recording was made well into the production's run, too, so the audience is both aware of what's up and willing to be played to and feed the show's energy.

Jon English's Pirate King is, of course, reminiscent of Kevin Kline's; he's swarthy, smarmy, over-the-top and completely unselfconscious throughout the show. Toni Lamond's Ruth is played similarly, and a fine complement to English in all of their shared scenes.

Helen Donaldson's Mabel is more low-key, but willing to have fun with her material when appropriate (especially the coloratura on "Poor Wand'ring One" and in the ensemble conclusion of "When the Foeman Bares His Steel") while toning it down for the more "serious" numbers. Simon Gallaher's Frederic similarly is played mostly straight, though again has some openly hammy moments (notably at the end of "Oh, Is There Not One Maiden Breast"). Donaldson and Gallaher also are the strongest voices by far, and have solid enough chemistry to occasionally make the viewer forget they're in a comedy.

Derek Metzger as General Stanley holds up well, though his makeup could be more convincing. Tim Tyler's sergeant of police is clearly taking slapstick cues from Tony Azito, but that's not a bad thing, and Tyler's mannerisms and voice are distinct enough to establish this as his own adaptation of the role. And the condensed Edith/Kate/Isabel roles (credited as "The Fabulous Singlettes") bring just the right touch of camp to each of their appearances.

The show does run a bit long to accommodate the various gags, including a stupendous number of audience-encouraged encores on "With Cat-Like Tread", but despite that it never feels as if it's dragging. The energy is relentless, from the somersaulting pirates at the opening of Act I straight through to the stepped-up "mega-mix" medley that runs during the credits.

Ultimately, though, your reaction to Gallaher's adaptation will come from your own expectations of what "Pirates" ought to be. If you're looking for a more staid and polished production in the tradition of D'Oyly Carte, you'll probably be best off staying away. But if you're open to quite a bit more comedy in your comic opera, you'll find plenty of entertainment here.
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on July 10, 2012
This DVD is a video of a live stage performance of Pirates of Penzance. There is clearly an audience present, and although the camera work is good, there remains a lot of stage ambiance that sometimes distracts.

The main reason that I recommend this DVD is for the performance of the two romantic leads, Simon Gallaher as Frederic and Helen Donaldson as Mabel. I don't think you will find a better set if pipes and appropriate singing styles in any other DVD version of this operetta. Simon looks the part and has a fine bel canto voice that perfectly suits the part, and Donaldson not only looks lovely but sings the part with the voice of a goddess. Their acting also holds up just fine.

My main reservation is with Jon English as the Pirate King. Physically, and in terms of costume, he looks the part, with the exception of a mullet haircut and Steve Tyler swagger that constantly makes one think of an aging rock star who wandered onto the stage. English basically performs the part well enough, picking up many bits from Kevin Kline's famous Papp production performances, and while his singing voice in not as good as anyone else's, and not as good as Kline's it is serviceable. And he is a gifted physical comedian, performing many falls, including down stairs, that are funny indeed. He does sometimes act as though the story is about his character, and this might be the fault of the director.

The actor playing Major General Stanley plays the part well, but looks totally wrong, more like a skinny teenager who glued on a set of muttonchops.

The roles of the police men are all well handled and funny, although the police captain's singing voice is a bit weak.

The biggest change is that if Mabel's sisters. Here they are played by a trio of women who are billed only by a group name, "The Singlettes" as I recall, as if they were an imported singing/comedy act, and maybe that's what they are. They don't look the part, with inappropriate costumes and hair styles, and they seem to be channeling Cinderella's three wicked sisters. But they ARE a scream comedically, and they sing all the sisters' lines in three part harmony that, while not original to B&S, does fit and seems appropriate, and they sing very well. My major beef with them is that their roles, especially during "Oh, Is there not one maiden breast", are elevated to the point where they are a distraction from the song.

So, a worthy Pirates, and worth having, but not without its flaws.

As with the Papp production that is so widely used as a model for modern performances of Pirates, liberties are taken with the lyrics and score here and there.
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on April 30, 2017
A great night at the Opera, justifiably more enjoyable by the innimitable inclusion of the great John English
. What a consummate performer.
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on August 1, 2009
I am a huge Musical Theater fan and ever since seeing Pirates of Penzance for the first time back when I was a freshman in high school, I have loved it ever since. The version I saw in HS followed the original pretty well, with a few minor adjustments here and there, so I made sure to a proffesional version of it later on. Now this particular Pirtes does not follow the original play as well as some might want it to, but I found it to be an utter joy.

I discovered this Australian cast version while searching the many videos on youtube for songs from Pirates and was absolutely taken with the entertainment/hilarity of this version. Sure it isn't the proper G&S version of Pirates, I believe it's a bit of a parody, but I love it!!! This version seems like it was made for the sake of entertainment, so just enjoy it! Sure some of the dialogue has changed and a lot of the music has been modernized with a bit of a Rock feel to it and the characters may be a bit over the top at times, it's funny and meant to be laughed at and enjoyed!

For those looking for a more traditional rendition of Pirates, I would suggest the Australian Opera version. Though not at funny or entertaining as this one, Its the beloved version of Pirates most of us know and love. So I suggest this to anyone looking for a bit of fun, hilarity, slight stupidity and all around entertainment. Just make sure you aren't TOO critical about it, otherwise you'll spend the entire prformance pointing out what: is wrong or doesn't follow the original, and you won't be able to just enjoy it for what it is.
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on November 27, 2008
Yes, at some time or another in this production, every cast member does some mugging for the audience. Some more than others. Some of it is down right shameless. The thing is, I saw a portion of this on the ARTS cable network before I bought it and read the reviews here so I had an idea what I was getting. I got exactly what I expected. This DVD gives you excellent performers (maybe not great actors) but fantastic performers. The biggest ham is John English as the pirate king. His interplay with the conductor is terrific and as other reviewers have stated, he is not taking his role seriously. If however, you watch the performance it is obvious that every move has been rehearsed over and over and that all these spontaneous acts come off flawlessly. Derek Metzger as the major-general was a bit annoying with his extra antics, but I could live with that. Tim Tyler as the sergeant did a nice job but I especailly enjoyed his bit with (I think they were ping-pong balls)after his first entrance. Simon Gallaher as Frederic was great and Helen Donaldson was the first Maybel I've ever seen that actually seemed to have a personality. Most Maybels are just there looking cute and singing. She actually used expressions starting with her first entrance: Yes it's Maaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy Bel! Then she got in to the part with the marching song. Hmmm..Good acting and a nice voice. Nice concept. I also would be neglectful if I did not mention the 3 daughters of the Major-General. They indeed tend to chew up the scenery when they were on, but those ladies had some talent!!! This DVD provided exactly what I expected and what I hoped for when I ordered it. This is just 115 minutes of fun. Even the opening overture starts out with the cast having fun with Gilbert and Sullivan. I've read that G & S purists might not like this production. I don't know what a G & S purist is. I love Gilbert and Sullivan and this version did not offend me at all. Maybe I'm not a purist. If you're not a 'purist', don't miss this version of Pirates of Penzance. If you enjoy it once, you will want to watch it again...and again...and again...and...well, you get it. This is an easy DVD to recommend.
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on July 29, 2016
This is a lot of fun to watch. You can tell the actors had fun performing it. Jon English really brings the Pirate King to life and is the perfect counter to Derek Metzger's Major General Stanley. Simon Gallagher, Helen Donaldson, and the rest of the cast round it out. Watching this, I can see why this is being performed even a hundred plus years after Gilbert and Sullivan's first produced it.
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on February 6, 2007
If you are a G & S afficionado, you may find this version beyond the pale.

If on the other hand you enjoy the music and humour of these comic operas and are prepared to accept that this company seem more interested in sharing a good time with the audience, than following the script, then this is for you.

Simon Gallaher's production romps through to the finish and everyone on stage seems to be having the time of their life.

True, there are a number of liberties taken with the libretto and even, with some of the characters. But the entire cast have superb voices with the possible exception of Jon English, whose voice may not have the quality of some of the others but is used to its best advantage and is perfect for the part of the Pirate King. Jon English leads the cast with obvious enjoyment and his asides and jibes at the orchestra pit are a joy.

The lack of an orchestra, it being replaced by synthesisers and percussion, did nothing to reduce and in my opinion, occasionally increased the listener's pleasure.

This is one of three productions from this company and is, to me, the best. It is upbeat and this antipodean angle on the original is a pleasure to behold.

I recommend this to music lovers and lovers of comic opera, but not to those who want their G & S exactly as, originally, written.
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on January 7, 2014
I saw Jon English performing this live a few years ago in Sydney and it was just as funny the second time on the DVD'
He is very droll in his humour and sometimes just his actions & faces he pulls are just as funny as the words he sings. I am almost the same age as Jon English and boy do I wish I had the physical energy he shows in this performance. I really enjoyed the whole light hearted performance-also thought the lass who played Mabel had a beautiful voice.
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