Picks and Pans Review: The Pirates of Penzance
updated 06/29/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 06/29/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Even more than most musical cast albums, this one is best appreciated by those who have seen the Joseph Papp production. The exuberant staging of the 101-year-old Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, by director Wilford Leach, is a prime part of its appeal, and doesn't quite come across on a record. Over four sides—nearly two hours in all, including snippets of dialogue—only two songs are really memorable, though the album does have its charm. Linda Ronstadt, whose trained voice required a refresher course of private lessons to handle the trills and strains of operetta, adjusted graciously to what is essentially a supporting role. Her sweet, delicate rendering of Poor Wandering One—full of maidenly virtuousness—is one of those two highlights. The other, I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General, is rendered delightfully, with every lickety-split polysyllable intact, by Broadway veteran George Rose. Pop idol Rex Smith, no threat to Pavarotti, still handles his part as pirate-turned-hero with pleasing earnestness. Kevin Kline, as the pirate king, transmits a little of his onstage Errol Flynnishness. Overall, though, this is mostly a souvenir, not the very model of a modern musical cast album.