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is primarily a historical document, part of the Broadway Theater Archive television series.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