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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous production of a G & S classic, May 8 2004
This review is from: Pirates of Penzance (VHS Tape)
Anyone who enjoys the wit and merriment of Gilbert and Sullivan will adore this marvelous production. The cast is superb, with Kevin Kline giving us one of his most delectable performances, playing the Pirate King with bravura and remarkable athletic ability. Rex Smith is wonderful as the handsome Frederick; he has a gorgeous tenor voice, with a charming vibrato and fine timbre.
Linda Ronstadt is a cute and demure Mabel, and as her father, the Major-General Stanley, George Rose is a riot. His of course is one of the most famous fast-patter songs ever written, "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General", and he makes the most of it. Other notable performances are by Angela Lansbury as Ruth, and Tony Azito, who is a terrific dancer, as the Sergeant.
The staging and choreography are top-notch, and I'm especially fond of the sets, which look like three-dimensional paintings, contrasted by usually having running water in each scene. Lovely cinematography (Douglas Slocombe) and excellent direction by Wilford Leach make this one of the best G & S films ever.
Gilbert loved to parody the conventions and society of his time in his lyrics, and Sullivan did the same with grand opera. There are sections of "Penzance" that spoof Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata".
The official premiere was in 1879 in New York City, and the opera still sparkles with cleverness, its silly plot devices are still inanely funny, and the characters still lovable.
The subtitle to the opera is "The Slave of Duty", and the story concerns a boy who was mistakenly apprenticed to pirates by his nurse, who hard of hearing, thought her master said "pirate" instead of "pilot"; when he meets Mabel, feelings, sense of duty, and being born on February 29th (one of those silly plot devices !) collide, and chaos ensues.
This performance, based on the N. Y. Shakespeare Festival production, will thoroughly delight anyone who appreciates Gilbert and Sullivan, and Kevin Kline fans will love to see yet another facet of his talent. Total running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.
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