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The Pirates of Penzance

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Critics' Reviews

AMG Review
Craig Butler
This film version of the rollicking Joseph Papp stage production of The Pirates of Penzance doesn't quite capture the exuberant silliness the show had in the theatre, but it's still quite a lot of fun and definitely a good way to introduce those with a reluctance to operetta (comic or otherwise) to Gilbert & Sullivan. The buffoonery and campiness that seemed so effortless onstage comes across as a bit artificial and forced on film, and one wishes that director Wilford Leach had a more natural affinity for the camera than he displays here; but even with these shortcomings, there's a joyousness to Pirates that is hard to resist. The score, of course, is a sheer delight, with Arthur Sullivan's entirely engaging melodies well matched with W.S. Gilbert's witty and captivating lyrics. The story is delightful fluff, spoofy yet with just enough substance to keep the viewer interested in what happens to the silly characters involved in the various plot machinations. Kevin Kline is a divinely amusing Pirate King, superbly athletic yet winningly comic. George Rose was born to play the Major-General, and Angela Lansbury is a true treat as Ruth. Also surprisingly good are Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith; if their voices are not quite what one might wish for these roles, they still handle the songs well enough and are much better performers than one would expect. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi
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