The Pirates of Penzance (Essgee) (1994)

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Released 29-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 148:07 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Craig Schaffer

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jon English
Simon Gallaher
Toni Lamond
Helen Donaldson
The Fabulous Singlettes
Derek Metzger
Tim Tyler
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Arthur Seymour Sullivan

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Gilbert and Sullivan is a category all by itself. It's musical comedy, but a very particular kind. Moreover, it really only works on stage with a live audience. This performance realises that - this is a recording of a stage performance at the Lyric Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Unfortunately, this recording was made in 1994 (before the advent of DVD) - it was clearly made for sale on videotape, and that shows in the quality of the material.

    Why is Gilbert and Sullivan different? Well, it has elements of pantomime, with lots of hamming it up, and playing to the audience. And unlike opera (for example), the audience is not inhibited from bursting into applause at the end of the larger songs; indeed, it is something of a tradition in Gilbert and Sullivan performances for the company to perform an encore to the most popular songs. This performance goes a little over-the-top with four encores to one of the songs. Even the orchestra pit gets in on the hamming it up, with the conductor indulging in banter with the pirate king. If you haven't seen Gilbert and Sullivan before, you may find this a bit disconcerting (I certainly did, the first time I saw a performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan work).

    The story is the least important part of Gilbert and Sullivan, but let's outline it anyway. At the opening we're introduced to the Pirate King (Jon English) and his band of not-exactly-cut-throat pirates. They are celebrating the birthday of the youngest of their crew, Frederic (Simon Gallagher). Frederic is now 21, which means that his indentured apprenticeship is over. He announces that it is his intent to leave the pirate crew and devote himself to their destruction. He was apprenticed to the pirates by mistake by his nursery maid, Ruth (Toni Lamond). As he is making his way from the pirate base to civilisation he encounters the daughters of Major General Stanley (Derek Metzger). The first three daughters we meet are The Fabulous Singlettes. The fourth daughter, Mabel (Helen Donaldson), we meet a little later - she rapidly becomes interested in Frederic, and the interest is clearly mutual. Frederic is aided in his intent of destroying the pirates by a band of police, led by a police sergeant (Tim Tyler - the only man living with longer legs than John Cleese, I'm sure).

    There are several famous songs in Pirates of Penzance. The ones that I remember best are: (I am the very model of a) Modern Major-General, When A Felon's Not Engaged in His Employment (I know this better as A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One), and Paradox. The song that gets the most encores, though, is With Cat-like Tread Upon Our Prey We Steal. (no, G&S titles aren't short, are they?)

    The voices in this performance are a bit variable. Jon English, Toni Lamond, and Simon Gallagher are excellent. Helen Donaldson is clearly operatically trained (unfortunately, this makes some of the words she sings unrecognisable). Derek Metzger, though, disappoints - his performance of Modern Major General is not a lot better than reciting the words; I wonder if he was concentrating on other things? Oh, Melvyn Morrow provided some extra lines for Modern Major-General, referring to modern affairs - cute, but anachronistic. The chorus is perfectly acceptable.

    If you desperately need a performance of Pirates of Penzance to round out your collection of Gilbert and Sullivan, this might suit you. If you previously bought this on videotape, and you've worn out your copy, then this will suit you perfectly. Otherwise, you might want to see if a better version is made.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. Gilbert and Sullivan Opening
2. Pour, O Pour The Pirate Sherry
3. When Frederic Was a Little Lad
4. Oh, Better Far to Live and Die
5. Oh, False One, You have Deceived Me
6. Climbing Over Rocky Mountain
7. Stop, Ladies, Pray!
8. Oh, is There Not One Maiden Breast
9. Poor Wandering One
10. What Ought We Do?
11. How Beautifully Blue the Sky
12. Stay, We Must Not Lose Our Senses
13. Hold Monsters!
14. Modern Major General
15. Oh, Men of Dark and Dismal Fate
16. Oh, Dry the Glistening Tear
17. When the Foeman Bares His Steel
18. Now For the Pirate's Lair
19. When You had Left our Pirate Fold
20. Paradox
21. Duty, Duty
22. Away, Away! My Heart's On Fire
23. All is Prepared
24. Stay, Frederic, Stay!
25. No, I am Brave
26. When a Felon's Not Engaged...
27. A Rollicking Band of Pirates We
28. With Cat-like Tread...
29. Hush, Hush! Not a Word
30. Sighing Softly to the River

Transfer Quality


    This performance was originally released on videotape, and this is basically the same thing, only on disc. So it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is variable. It is mostly a bit soft, but is capable of reasonable sharpness in close-ups. Shadow detail is difficult to assess under stage lighting, but it seems fairly reasonable. There is some low level noise.

    Colour is not fully saturated, but adequate nonetheless.

    There are no apparent film artefacts (perhaps this was recorded on videotape?). This absence is more than adequately compensated for by lots and lots of aliasing (curse those striped pirate costume!), some moire, and quite a bit of background shimmer. There's edge enhancement evident in many scenes. It also looks like someone involved in making this transfer set the contrast a little high (this may be the stage lighting, though). All-in-all, this is not a pretty picture.

    There's a strange error at 45:50 in Act I where two frames have a dirty band across the top sixth of the frame. At 63:20 in Act I, there's a bright green line across a single frame. At 38:25 in Act II, there's a line across another frame.

    There are no subtitles. I like to have subtitles, especially for songs.

    The disc is single-sided and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is placed between Act I and Act II, which is sensible. Whoever mastered the disc chose to make the two acts separate titles, and placed one title on each layer. This means that you cannot readily "rewind" from Act II back into Act I.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The only soundtrack available is English Dolby Digital 2.0, not flagged as surround encoded. Make sure you have your surround decoder on, though - the audience applause will appear in the rears. I suspect the soundtrack really is surround encoded; just not marked as such. It's not the best recording you've ever heard - sounds like a little of the top end is missing, and there's no really low bass.

    The dialogue is generally clear; not all of the lyrics are. Most notable is Helen Donaldson - she has a beautiful and musical singing voice, and is well-trained in opera, but that very skill obscures the words she's singing. There are no apparent audio sync errors.

    Your subwoofer can sleep in - it won't be called upon. The surrounds get nothing but audience applause. This is a stage performance, and that's what it sounds like.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Extras? This disc is unsullied by any trace of extras.


    The menus are animated with music. At least there's a chapter stop for each song.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can ascertain, this disc is not yet available in Region 1. Indeed, it appears there is no other performance available on DVD (not even the Linda Ronstadt version).


    Classic Gilbert and Sullivan, performed with vim and vigour by an Australian cast.

    The video quality is fairly poor.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    What extras?

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, June 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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The DVD Bits - Damien M - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))

Comments (Add)
pricless pirates - jp