The Mikado

The appearance of this production, the casting, the performances and the direction are all superb. Treat yourself to a night out.

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Presented by The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of South Australia
Reviewed Thursday 20th October 2011

http://www.gandssa.com.au/shows/mikado

Venue: Scott Theatre, University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Wed to Sat until 29th October, 2pm Sat 29th October 2011
Duration: 2hrs 30min incl interval
Tickets: $20 to $40
Bookings: 8447 7239 or http://www.gandssa.com.au/buy-tickers/shows/mikado

The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, was premièred at the Savoy Theatre on 14th March 1885 and ran for 672 performances, becoming the most popular operetta written by librettist, W. S. Gilbert, and composer, Arthur Sullivan. The idea for the work is claimed to have come to Gilbert when he was inspired by a Japanese sword, falling from its place on the wall in his study.

Ric Trevaskis is no newcomer to directing G&S operettas and he brings his vast experience to this production, ably assisted by musical director Ross Curtis. The striking set, with furniture that you'll want to take home, and the flamboyantly colourful costume design are by David Lampard, with the very complementary lighting design by Daniel Barber. The appearance of this production, the casting, the performances and the direction are all superb.

This is the story of the son of the Mikado who arrives in Titipu looking for Yum-Yum, with whom he has fallen in love. He is disguised as Nanki-Poo, a second trombonist in a town band. In this updated version, however, he becomes a singing waiter, formerly a member of a boy band. She is betrothed to her guardian, Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, and he to the terrifying, Katisha. With the aid of Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, Pish-Tush, a Noble, and Yum-Yum's sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo, a long string of machinations are brought into play to bring the lovers together.

Ian Andrew and Liana Nagy play the young lovers and are an ideal pairing, both in their characterisations and in the blend of their singing voices. Nagy gives her character a nice touch of naivety and Andrew presents us with an upright but often rather dim young man who Like many G&S heroes and heroines, they are bound by their notions of duty, keeping themselves apart.

Timothy Ide tackles the role of Pooh-Bah, looking down his nose and sneering at all around him,with his hand out, on the take, at every opportunity. Pooh-Bah's mocking insistence on putting his breeding behind him gives Ide plenty of grist for his comic mill and he obviously relished every moment.

Ko-Ko is played with plenty of verve by David Lampard, who makes the most of the conniving nature of his character to keep the audience in fits of laughter. Not only do we get an hilarious characterisation, but a great singing voice and some impressive dance moves, to boot.

Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo are played by Sarah Nagy and Natalie Tate, offering some lively performances as the coquettish couple. They and Yum-Yum are, apparently, taking a 'gap year'. Pish-Tush is played by Patrick Whitcombe and the Mikado by David Rapkin, with more strong work from them both in these smaller roles.

Danii Zappia is Katisha, in a reinterpretation of the role as a “powerful, glamorous but bitter” woman. It works to a degree but contradicts the text and song lyics. In The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring, Ko-Ko describes her as “A most unattractive old thing, With a caricature of a face”, which is hardly a description of Zappia. Some lyric changes would be needed to reflect the new style Katisha. Powerful and glamorous, she may be, but the bitterness does not come through. Zappia's acting takes her there, but her singing voice lacks the necessary frightening edge.

There is also some most impressive work from the chorus members with accurate harmonies, plenty of characterisation and some more smart dance moves.

On opening night there were a few technical problems, with numerous late lighting cues and poor balance in the sound mix, a tinny sound on the electronically generated parts of the music, a booming bass, or very loud xylophone and, sometimes, the music drowned the singers. This is a drawback to orchestrations that include electronic tracks, as the control is taken out of the hands of the Musical Director and handed to the sound operator. With luck, these problems would have been remedied by now.

The G&S Society can generally be relied upon to mount a great show and, once again, this is precisely what they have done. This is fun for all the family and filled with excellent performances in this ever-popular operetta. Treat yourself to a night out.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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