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

Original Broadway Cast

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.

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