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  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
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The Pirates of Penzance

ABC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 147 mins . G . PAL


After being allocated this DVD to review, I was a little apprehensive. What have I gotten myself into here? However, at the risk of being apprehended by the "Cool Police", I have to say this is a most enjoyable performance. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta has had a facelift and is loaded with comedy, both spoken and visual, along with some memorable songs. Filmed at the Lyric Theatre in Queensland during the sell-out tour of Australia in 1994, this performance captures a great display by a more than able cast and orchestra. Jon English is superb as the Pirate King as is Simon Gallaher as Frederic. Helen Donaldson has a beautiful operatic voice, but it is hard to understand a word she is singing most of the time, an ideal time for subtitles - but I will get to that later. Tim Tyler is superb as The Sergeant of the Keystone Cop style police as are Toni Lamond as Ruth and Derek Metzger as Major General Stanley. Interaction with the audience and with the conductor, Kevin Hocking, is hysterical.

Thanks to his hard of hearing nursemaid, orphan Frederic is destined to become a pirate rather than a pilot. Upon discovering the blunder he is torn between his loyalty to the Pirate King and to that of his moral duty to rid the seas of the Pirates of Penzance. The pirates however have an ace up their sleeve, a way of keeping Frederic amongst their ranks. Enter Mabel, the new love of his life and her sisters, their father the Major General plus a bevy of policeman and the fun begins.


Presented in full frame and not 16x9 enhanced, the quality of this transfer is very good. The picture is sharp and clear at all times and blacks are generally deep. Colours are bright and clear for the most part, although they are a little over-saturated at times. Shading is generally good, but theatre lighting can be blamed for this, not the transfer. There are a couple of video blemishes at 45:15 in act one and 28:18 in act two, but these are not too distracting. There are some instances of aliasing, generally on striped shirts, but this is only minor. The layer change occurs at 72:21 between the two acts.


Audio is supplied in Dolby Digital surround and does the job nicely. The sound is well balanced using the rear speakers primarily for audience noise. The subwoofer gets a fair workout, mainly from the bass and drums of the orchestra. The only faults to be found are with annoying audience noise such as coughing and even a baby crying (why do people take babies to the theatre?). Spoken word is crystal clear as are solo singing performances generally. It can be a little hard to understand the lyrics when the entire ensemble are singing, this is where subtitles would have been nice. Audio sync is spot on, although there are occasional drop outs due to microphones. Overall the sound is more than sufficient.


None, nada, zip - well apart from song selection and that doesn't really count does it? Bah humbug ABC, lift your game!


For fans of Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, this variation on the original is terrific. Fans who have seen the show on its travels may wish to relive the experience, and why not? Currently touring the country again with a newer version, this could whet your appetite while you wait for it to hit your town. For the rest of us, if you enjoy a good theatre performance or like the humour of Jon English then you should definitely have a look at this production, as you won't be disappointed. There would be a decidedly small target audience for this release, however I would highly recommend it.

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      And I quote...
    "Jon English in purple tights and knee-high boots may make you shudder but this is surprisingly good."
    - Adrian Turvey
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