January 21, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 61  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Mikado pleases and shocks


The Mikado
Starring: Marc McNamara, Dean Greer, Sharon Jones, Chris Wood, Carolyn Holdsworth

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo
WHY DOES HIS FACE LOOK SO CONTORTED? Talbot Theatre hosts The Mikado, a play filled with the possibility of executions and dangerous flirtations.

With this being the 50th consecutive year of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, London Musical Theatre’s The Mikado takes its place in this local tradition in a way best described by Katisha in one of the show’s final numbers: “Along, and Yet Alive!”

David Antscherl’s breathtaking set design transforms the Talbot Theatre’s stage into Titipu, Japan where Nanki-Poo (Greer), the son of the all-powerful Mikado (McNamara), has fled to escape his arranged marriage to Katisha (Jones), the larger-than-life choice of his parents.

Upon Nanki-Poo’s arrival, he and Yum-Yum (Holdsworth), the loveless bride-to-be of the village executioner, Ko-Ko (Wood), inevitably fall for each other. Because of Yum-Yum’s engagement, however, there is nothing the lovers can do — the penalty for flirting, after all, is death.

In a shocking twist of fate, the executioner receives a letter from the
Mikado noting there have not been enough executions in Titipu this year and that Ko-Ko’s position will be eliminated if someone isn’t killed soon.

The two men eventually strike a deal wherein the lovers can be married for one month, after which Wood’s brilliantly-portrayed, stutter-stepping Ko-Ko can execute him, thus setting the stage for even zanier outcomes.

The leads are rounded out by a strong chorus, complete with an “alumni chorus” composed of past G&S and LMT performers, who come onstage to enhance the bigger songs in trademark G&S fashion.

In another fitting tribute during “I’ve Got a Little List,” the chorus takes a seat while a character enters with some new verses, extolling the history of the Forest City’s great G&Sers of yore. Though perhaps a little self-indulgent, this is a fine addition to mark the half-century and doesn’t interfere with the show.

Perhaps the only drawback is the shows place in the G&S catalogue; The Mikado is in many ways a sleeper, often overshadowed by the fame of, for instance, the bouncier H.M.S. Pinafore; nevertheless, the cast and crew can’t be faulted for that.

Numbers to note in the production (in no particular order) include “Comes a Train of Little Ladies,” or as some will remember it, the umbrella scene due to artistic director Elizabeth Van Doorne’s creative choreography; Greer and Holdsworth’s hilarious duet, “Were I not to Ko-Ko Plighted” and Katisha’s aforementioned moving solo, all of which show musical director Rod Culham’s great interpretation of a relatively weak score.

 

 

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