nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
December 30, 2010
One of the beauties of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is the topical humor, and the ability to contemporarily update references that W.S. Gilbert wrote into the libretto. With that in mind, don’t be surprised when Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner of the town of Titipu, the fictional Japanese setting of The Mikado, starts singing that the “cretins from the Jersey Shore” and the advisor to Mayor Bloomberg on snow removal are on his list of future executions.
The references in this production by the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players don’t stop there. We’re treated to a chorus of car companies—Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and the like—and mentions of Snooki, text messaging, teenagers with pierced faces and, of course, the Tea Party. Anachronisms abound in Gilbert and Sullivan’s romance about a wandering minstrel who falls for a little maid from school, who is desired by said Lord High Executioner. (More of synopsis and everything else you could ever want here.)
As one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular works, most audiences already know what they’re getting at The Mikado. The cheers were loud and the laughs were enthusiastic at the performance I attended. Still, that didn’t stop one dismayed Savoyard from leaving at intermission, complaining loudly that the production, directed and conducted by Albert Bergeret, destroyed the piece.
I found Bergeret’s staging to be rather delightful. His cast members are completely in tune with the lighthearted style, sing well, and are deft physical comedians. Particularly notable are Stephen Quaint as Ko-Ko (he alternates in the role with David Macaluso) and Louis Dall’Ava as the roly-poly Lord High Everything Else, both expert in physicality. As the young lovers Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum, Cameron Smith (who alternates with Daniel Greenwood) and Sarah Smith are charming and in lovely voice. David Wannen as The Mikado himself had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he appeared on stage.
I did find one flaw, the staging of the second act trio “Here’s a How-De-Do!” This encore-driven number, in the same vein as “When I Go Out of Door” from Patience and “Never Mind the Why or Wherefore” from HMS Pinafore should be a show-stopper. While entertaining, the voices of the unamplified singers aren’t large enough to carry, and the floor mics don’t pick them up.
Still, it’s a small fault in an enjoyable evening.