Patience - Opera Australia (Image)
One of a series of Gilbert & Sullivan productions taped live in
performance by Opera Australia, this is a first-rate rendition of one of
Gilbert & Sullivan's less well known works. Designed as a spoof of
Victorian England's aesthetic movement, this operetta still serves as a wickedly
funny send-up of social pretensions in our own time. Both the comedy and
the music are extremely well served, and the sound and picture quality are
excellent. No special features, but G&S fans will relish this wonderful stage
performance, including a hilarious flub in the final
scene. Very highly recommended!
Peter Pan - Mary Martin (Good Times)
As of this writing, this DVD is out of print -- it is also one of the
most highly sought-after items on the collector's black market, and with
excellent reason. Mary Martin's Peter Pan conquered Broadway and became
a landmark event in early television history. After two black and
white broadcasts failed to quell public demand, NBC brought the cast
together a third time to videotape this full color version. Martin is at
her best as the boy who won't grow up; how well I remember the way
reruns of this special left kids in my neighborhood crowing for
days! Cyril Ritchard snarled and pranced his way into America's heart as the
villainous Captain Hook, and the supporting cast makes the most of every
moment. The score is packed with great songs, including the
unforgettable "I'm Flying" and "Neverland." This is
the best surviving visual record we have of a 1950s "golden
age" Broadway musical in action. The DVD had no special features --
the show itself was the only feature required. If a copy of this comes
your way, treasure it.
Peter Pan - Cathy Rigby (A&E)
New technology and gymnastic ability make Cathy Rigby's flying sequences
truly eye popping, but she also sings beautifully and makes a first rate
Peter. She is surrounded by a fine cast, including Paul Schoeffler as
Hook and Rigby's son Thomas Buck Mason as the loveable dog Nana. While
Mary Martin's version remains unsurpassable, this new production
is grand fun.
Peter Pan (Disney)
This fine animated film does not always get the credit it deserves.
Barrie's tale is given a classy adaptation, and the score includes some
very fine songs. A special DVD edition has lots of fun extras. A treat
for children, but most adults will enjoy this one too.
H.M.S. Pinafore - Opera Australia (Kultur)
Those brilliant Australian's have struck again, with thoroughly
satisfying results. Gilbert and Sullivan's Pinafore is served handsomely,
and with the excruciating exception of a loutish Buttercup, is sung with great
style. Handsome baritone Anthony Warlow plays the social climbing
Captain Corcoran, then returns as the scurrilous Judge in a superb performance of
the delicious one act Trial By Jury. This is a must-have for fans
of G&S, and a great introduction to two of their best works.
The Pirates of Penzance - Broadway
I adore this DVD! The smash hit 1981 New York revival of Pirates began life as
a free outdoor production the summer before, and a video version of that
fresco staging was sadly shelved because of some technical glitches.
After years of delay, it was finally released on home video, and the DVD
remastering makes the tech problems negligible. Kevin Kline is a
wildly sexy and comic Pirate King, Rex Smith is a humpy pop-vocal
Frederic, Linda Ronstadt is a petite and winning Mabel, and George Rose
is a riot as the far from modern Major General. PBS Brit-com fans will
delight in seeing Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth in Keeping Up
Appearances) in a knockout musical performance. The giddy, souped-up
orchestrations add to the fun, and for all the innovative staging,
the text and music are both very well served. If you love musicals, you
will relish this disc.
The Producers (Universal)
The stage hit made it to the big screen with most of its original cast
and staging intact, but most of the excitement was lost, and audiences stayed away. Fans of the show can enjoy favorite
moments, with the outrageous "Keep It Gay" among the
highlights. The DVD release includes an informative but obviously
scripted commentary by director Susan
Stroman, outtakes, deleted scenes, and a detailed analysis of how the
"I Want to Be a Producer" number was planned and filmed. We
also get Nathan Lane's deleted opening number, "The King of
Broadway." Disappointing in some ways, but overall a worthwhile memento of a
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (20th
There have been many home video editions of this cult favorite, each
offering various bonus features. All but the most rabid fans will
probably be quite happy with the standard DVD edition, which offers
additional footage, commentary by the author, and the option of viewing
the film with the sort of audience reaction you would have at a late
night public screening. The film looks and sounds great, and it is always
a pleasure to "do the time warp again." A great package
for a grand bit of campy insanity.
The big screen success of Oliver brought a brief slew of British
film musicals based on stories by Charles Dickens, of which this
brilliant retelling of Dickens' A
Christmas Carol was easily the best. Handsomely produced and
brilliantly cast, this version also offers a first-rate score by Leslie
Bricusse, including the rollicking ensemble "Thank You Very
Much." Albert Finney is excellent in the title role, and Alec Guinness
offers a scene-stealing performance as Marley's ghost. A
holiday treasure, very highly recommended.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
This MGM classic has had various home video releases. The basic DVD
edition includes a "making of" documentary hosted by star
Howard Keel. The two disc set released in 2004 adds a commentary by
director Stanley Donen and an alternate screen aspect ratio version of
the full film. Go for the latter if you can find it, and relish one of
the last great musicals from Hollywood's golden age.
Along with a visually and aurally stunning restoration, the
"Director's Cut" DVD edition gives us the socko cut number
"Cool Considerate Men" and informative commentary by the director and
screenwriter. Most of the original Broadway cast is on hand to recreate
their marvelous performances, most notably William Daniels as a fiery
John Adams and Howard DaSilva as a cuddly but formidable Ben Franklin.
My advice: own it, love it.
Singin' in the Rain (WB/Turner)
The original DVD release offered little worth having, including a
so-so print of the film. The two disc "Special Edition" made
up for that: an outstanding restoration, an all-star (and at times
confusing) commentary track, documentaries, an outtake number and other
goodies. Considered by many to be the best original screen musical of
all time, this film deserved this fantastic package. All musical
buffs ought to own a copy.
Snow White (Disney)
The first of Disney's "Platinum Edition" DVD releases, this
one set a high standard. The film was given a painstaking frame by frame
restoration, and has never looked or sounded better. There is a
commentary track, interesting documentaries, and a second disc
packed with games, galleries, bonus audio tracks, and a rendition
of "Someday My Prince Will Come" by Barbra Streisand. If you
have kids, you owe them a chance to see this. If you still have an
inner child, you owe it to yourself.
The Sorcerer - BBC/PBS (Acorn)
The BBC/PBS "Complete Gilbert & Sullivan" series was
mostly disappointing, but this production is one of the happy exceptions.
Broadway veteran Clive Revill mugs up a storm as John Wellington Wells, a
business-like 1870s wizard called on to make an entire Victorian village to fall in love.
The physical production is extremely handsome, the cast is up to all the
musical and dramatic demands, and most fans will be pleased with the
absolute fidelity to the original text.
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