I think I own every video version of Pirates now, and am quite familiar with the material, having performed it (I was the Pirate King, and also Frederic once when the other actor forgot his lines!), and have seen many amateur and professional performances over many years.
In my analysis, both of the Papp versions (the live one in the park, and the later movie version of the same, i.e. the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt versions) remain the best overall in terms of: - sticking to the source material for the most part - good sense of style and humor - excellent performances all around - slightly updated without forgetting it is a Victorian comedy - good set and costume design (albeit with Mabel's parts take down a few steps, the only real vocal disappointment here)
The Australian version being reviewed here is a confounding mash-up of the Papp version and a more modernized, 'forget its roots' treatment. Some thoughts: - Overall, Fredric and Mabel here are voiced by the best sounding (and appropriately styled) singers when compared to all the others - Major General Stanley is done by an actor who looks far too young, and who is given FAR too many digressions in his patter song, and yet otherwise he plays the role well and sings well - The Pirate King is just awful...the worst I have ever seen and I can think of no excuse for the director letting the actor get away with it; he sings poorly, mugs to the camera, has a mullet haircut, looks like an aging rock star instead of a pirate king, etc - Ruth is actually quite good, and her lines are intelligible, although she fakes some notes and speaks others at times - The other daughters are played by a mere trio of women, the 'Singlettes', apparently some sort of pop trio that was enlisted for the roles....they harmonize in ways not called for in the original, but this does not hurt, and they break into rap and pop styles for no apparent reason, and their slapstick actions often detract from the more important action and/or singing going on by others. They are indeed funny, but I would rather have seen them in another show and kept them out of this one - The action takes place almost entirely on a simple (and small) stage with minimal sets, and for the most part looks like it was shot from the audience with a couple hand-held camera; both Papp versions, by contrast, have much better scenery
If this version, with most of the singers, had been staged a bit better, and with a different Pirate King, more restraint on the part of the Major General, and a more traditional role for the daughters, I would have to count it among my favorite versions. But with its significant flaws and misfires, it is funny but disappointing.
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