Gilbert and Sullivan Broadway Theatre Archive
Kevin Kline, George Rose, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Patricia Routledge
Broadway Musicals DVD
BM01 Broadway Musicals DVD - Kevin Kline, George Rose, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, Patricia Routledge - Gilbert and Sullivan Broadway Theatre Archive - Broadway Musicals DVD - This Pirates of Penzance is primarily a historical document, part of the Broadway Theater Archive television series.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. 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. 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. I loved it. It reminded me of the days back in high school when my sister was Ruth in their production. The video is terrible but I loved it. It was charming and funny and everything a Gilbert and Sullivan production should be. The audience response was wonderful to hear. I feel that you can never enjoy GandS more than when it's live. It was thrilling to recognize Patricia Routledge. I fell in love with Frederic and adored Kevin Kline as the Pirate King. It was remarkable how lively and animated the performance was. If you are a true lover of Gilbert and Sullivan, you will love this. 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.
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