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The Pirates of Penzance

Gilbert & Sullivan's durable The Pirates of Penzance has been turned into an elaborate screen musical by basically the same hands responsible for Joseph Papp's smash New York Shakespeare Festival and Broadway stage production, and result is a delight.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s durable The Pirates of Penzance has been turned into an elaborate screen musical by basically the same hands responsible for Joseph Papp’s smash New York Shakespeare Festival and Broadway stage production, and result is a delight.

For the film, shot at Shepperton Studios in England, a charming artificiality of style was arrived at, which is most immediately apparent in Elliot Scott’s beautifully witty production design.

Simple tale has orphan Rex Smith leaving, upon turning 21, the band of pirates with whom he’s been raised. Upon hitting land, he encounters eight sisters and becomes smitten with one of them, Linda Ronstadt, Pirate King Kevin Kline is not about to let Smith go straight so easily, however, and informs him that, having been born on 29 February, he’s actually only had five birthdays, and will therefore be obliged to remain with the gang until 1940 or so.

With the exception of Angela Lansbury, entertaining as the pirates’ nursemaid and aide-de-combat, all principal cast members have repeated their Broadway performances here, and in exemplary fashion.

The Pirates of Penzance

  • Production: Pressman/Universal. Director Wilford Leach; Producer Joseph Papp, Timothy Burrill; Screenplay Wilford Leach; Camera Douglas Slocombe; Editor Anne V. Coates; Music William Elliott (arr.); Art Director Elliot Scott
  • Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1983. Running time: 112 MIN.
  • With: Kevin Kline Angela Lansbury Linda Ronstadt George Rose Rex Smith Tony Azito