Reviewed by Richard Lane
The Mikado is the most-loved and successful of the Savoy operettas by William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances. Beloved of schools, music departments, professional and amateurs alike, this production by the G and S Society of S.A. makes it clear why.
It captures the “faux Japanese–ness,” designed to disguise the satire of English 19th-Century politics and society, the exotic locale, the new orchestration and the principal and ensemble singing, all of a very high-calibre indeed.
The plot is convoluted and complex, but fundamentally it is a love story wherein Nanki-Poo (Ian Andrew) disguised as a singing waiter but in reality the royal son of the Mikado (or Emperor of Japan) is searching for his beloved Yum-Yum (Liana Nagy) in order to marry her without being decapitated by Ko-Ko who is now Lord High Executioner (David Lampard). Yum-Yum is betrothed to Ko-Ko who must execute someone in order to escape the clutches of Katisha, the aging imperial court vamp.
The story of course ends with the farcical situations being sorted, everyone who should, gets married and nobody loses their head.
Award-winning director Richard Trevaskis, has brought together a wealth of talent and experience, and together with Musical Director Ross Curtis with his new orchestrations, has produced a show of immense quality.
The men’s chorus tended to out-sing the women, but the entire ensemble sang with energy and joy.
The 14-piece orchestra was at times a little loud but generally played well under the baton of Curtis.
The principals, with Timothy Ide’s (Poo-Bah) and Patrick Witcombe’s (Pish -Tush) rich and powerful baritone voices were an absolute delight. Tenor Andrew as Nanki-Poo is suitably handsome whilst soprano Nagy as Yum-Yum (one of the Three Little Maids From School) is an utter joy. Mention must be made of the other two Little Maids (Sarah Nagy and Natalie Tate) who were a comic delight and sang like larks. David Rapkin’s Mikado was quintessentially sheer comic genius, his booming bass voice reverberating throughout the auditorium.
Tradition has it that the role of Katisha (Danii Zappia) is normally taken by an older less attractive female contralto but Zappia played her as a very sexy vamp for all it was worth and her number with Ko-Ko There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast (a favourite of this reviewer) was a wow.
As the character around whom the entire plot revolves, Lampard as Ko-Ko, was at his comedic best. Wearing basketball boots, modern braces and John Lennon-style sunnies, Lampard, sang, danced, did marvelous prat falls, connived, pleaded and generally jigged about the stage with boundless energy. He was a riot and master of comic timing – a bravura performance. And the audience loved him!
The multi-skilled Lampard was also responsible for the lush costumes. They were all lavish. bright and fulsome, each character having at least three changes. The Mikado’s robe was devilishly clever with the inner lining of it revealing a blend of the Japanese and UK flags, evoking a simultaneous Britannic and Nipponese motif.
In addition to that, Lampard designed the settings, colorful and open making full use of the Scott Theatre’s excellent stage.
This is a production of the most popular G&S Operetta, of which the Society may be justly proud.