Those G&S 'Pirates' still raiding Manhattan theaters; The Pirates of Penzance, Comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. Directed by Wilford Leach. Music adapted by William Elliott. Choreography by Graciela Daniele. Starring Kaye Ballard, Robby Benson, Maureen McGovern, George Rose, Treat Williams.

For more than a year, a preposterous band of buccaneers has been operating in Manhattan's theatrical waters -- first with a raid on Central Park and next by dropping anchor at the Uris Theater. Known to the authorities as "The Pirates of Penzance," the free-booters recently made port at the Minskoff, where they continue pursuing their nefarious ways and threatening the fair maidens of Cornwall with marriage.

Coursing down the Broadway mainstream, "Pirates" has witnessed departures and recruitments (though nobody walked the plank). Four new principals have just lately come aboard. Lovely Maureen McGovern triumphs in Mabel's coloratura, her airs and graces. Apart from announcing himself as a slave of "dooty," Robby Benson conscientiously fulfill his indentures as Gilbert and Sullivan's apprentice pirate. Treat Williams cuts a mad macho figure as the glorious pirate king. And Kaye Ballard proves her prowess with cutlass and lyric as Ruth , the piratical maid-of-all-work. Fortunately for the greater cause of innocent merriment and polysullabic patter, George Rose still holds the high ground as the spurious orphan and military nabob, Major-General Stanley. What can one add to the praise already bestowed on this marvelous comic performance? He is the Rose of tra-la. He makes the ridiculous sublime. And defies hyperbole. As for Tony Azito, he remains hilariously on hand to lead the constabulary in choreographer Graciela Daniele's antic chases.

In some respects, the production seems more farcically hokey than on my last visit to director-designer Wilford Leach's Cornwall. Particularly in the case of the Stanley daughters, low camp has taken over completely. Too bad. The vocal and orchestral performance is still first-rate (marred only by some jarring amplification). Musical adapter William Elliott took over the pit at a recent matinee, displaying enough gymnastic batoneering and enthusiasm for three conductors. It was Jolly Roger all the way.

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