Pirates of Penzance, The (1983)

The Pirates of Penzance (1983), directed by Wilford Leach.

I was gratified when watching Topsy-Turvy to see Victorian theater audiences frantically paging through their librettos during a performance. Gilbert & Sullivan musicals are famous for their witty lyrics but I had never been able to understand any of the words, and apparently I wasn't the only one.

Now we have discs with subtitles, solving the problem. I can't say I am a G&S fan but I would like to see all the shows just to understand the references people make to them.

All feature bright and bouncy music, rapid-fire lyrics, and levels of extreme silliness that take us into Monty Python or Pee-wee Herman territory. You have been warned.

This one is about a young man raised by pirates who, coming of age, becomes a pirate-hunter. For romantic interest we have a bevy of daughters who spend the second half of the film in their nightgowns, which must have been saucy at the time.

It's a lush, colorful presentation, mostly done on large stage sets. Lots of comic business.

I only recognized three people in the cast: Kevin Kline is a remarkably athletic Pirate King. If nothing else is happening you can watch his comical expressions and postures. Linda Rondstadt is Mabel, the main love interest. She's sweet and has a great set of pipes, but it's just as well she has only two speaking lines. Angela Lansbury is the Nurse.

Tony Azito as the Sergeant has great loose-limbed rubber-man talents.

This started as a Central Park production, then moved to Broadway. There was an earlier made for TV version on DVD with Kline and Rondstadt, but this 1983 theatrical release is much preferred.

Netflix doesn't have the DVD.