Picks and Pans Review: Pirates of Penzance

updated 03/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Linda Ronstadt can sing gloriously. This film version of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, which Ronstadt did last year on Broadway for producer Joe Papp, makes that clear. Sadly, it also reveals Linda cannot as yet walk, talk, smile, gesture or otherwise act convincingly in front of a camera. Her squeaking a line like "Oh, Frederic, in the calm excellence of your wisdom" is enough to set G&S spinning. Debuting film director Wilfred Leach, who staged the play in Central Park and on Broadway, has lost much of the stage production's go-for-it spontaneity too. This is not the fault of the performers, most of whom appeared in the Broadway version. Kevin (Sophie's Choice) Kline, with his acrobatic wizardry as the pirate king, again dazzles. So do George Rose, as the fast-talking Major-General, and Rex Smith, with his sweet crooner's voice. Pirates, thanks largely to William Elliott's orchestrations, still delights the ear. But Leach shows little subtlety. What should be gossamer (and was onstage) is rendered all too solid and earthbound onscreen. (G)

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