It’s DVD Pirate night at my place. No, I’m not watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Sure, Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow would make for a nice Pirate night, but I want to watch more than just dastardly pirate types. No, I’ve got singing and dancing pirates entertaining me, Gilbert and Sullivan style.
After my post on Leap Day and watching the clip from Pirates of Penzance, I found myself needing to see the movie again. Me, my mom, and my sister had fallen in love with that movie after watching it on TV way back in the early 1980s. Youtube had plenty of snippets from the 1983 movie, plus various stage performances, including high school and college versions. But I wanted that 1983 movie. After all, it offers the opportunity to see one of the greatest Pirate Kings of all time: a young and vibrant Kevin Kline. And did I fall for him in that role.
Unfortunately, that film is not available on DVD. Curses! What I did find is a DVD of the original stage production that the movie I loved was based on. This 1980 version of Pirates of Penzance was one of Joseph Papp’s summer Shakespeare festival productions. On the centenary of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, Papp and director Wilford Leach decided to have fun. With a cast that included pop stars Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith, along with pros like George Rose as the model of a modern major general, the free show in Central Park proved such a hit that it eventually moved to Broadway, running over 700 performances. One of the more successful revivals, the musical won a variety of Tonys, including one for Kevin Kline as the Pirate King.
Papp and Leach took liberties with Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta. One change was making the Pirate King, usually performed by an older and less swashbuckling actor, more like our Errol Flynn image of a pirate. Kevin Kline was the perfect person to bring this new dashing King to the stage. Kline had been in a few Broadway shows, winning the “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical” Tony award for On the Twentieth Century, but it was the Pirate King role that put him on the show biz map. With the success of of his role as the Pirate King, he was cast to recreate the role for the movie version (and why is there no DVD version of that movie?). He was also offered the role of Nathan in Sophie’s Choice, and since then he’s had a successful film career (he steals several scenes in the recent Definitely, Maybe).
The stage version that I am watching shows the fun that the audience had, sitting in the park and watching a new twist on an old classic. They also seem quite enamored of Kline and his Pirate King. I’m enamored too. Just watch him ham it up in dashing style:
Here you can see him sing “I am a Pirate King”:
Aaaah, how could I not fall in love with him?