New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
January 6, 2007
An evening spent watching the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players in the light comic opera The Mikado is a delightful experience. Seated in a large, comfortable theater, the audience is a treated to an overture played by an orchestra of more than 20 musicians, led by Albert Bergeret and Jeffrey Kresky. This immediately sets the scene for a night of pure theatrical majesty.
The story revolves around the love of schoolgirl Yum-Yum and wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo. They adore each other, but Yum-Yum is engaged to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. Nanki-Poo tells Yum-Yum that he is actually the son of His Majesty the Mikado, but is in hiding from an older lady named Katisha, who had claimed him in marriage under his father's law. After the arrival of the imposing, dare-I-say frightening Katisha (played by the terrific Dianna Dollman, who, wearing quite an impressive headpiece, somehow manages to be adorable and formidable and scary all at the same time), things are thrown up in the air, leading to the executioner needing to convince Katisha to marry him before it's too late.
This production is full of color, life, trilling voices, and an impressive array of ornate, beautiful fans. One is aware of the company's effort (successfully realized) to give the audience a full treat of a production.
The Mikado was written in Victorian England by the team of librettist William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. Small modernizations have been made to the script, so as to include references to "Brangelina," Fear Factor, major Japanese car companies, "the checkout girl at Rite-Aid who's perpetually pissed," "persons who insist McDonald's tricked them into getting fat," and the like. Some of these work and some don't quite hit, but the main point of course is to keep the satire current instead of using references that packed more of a punch in 1885.
A particular favorite moment of mine was the duet between Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo, "Were You Not to Ko-Ko Plighted," in which the lovers vow between kisses that they simply must not kiss. This has a particularly sweet mischief to it.
The cast, which numbers more than 30 including the ensemble, do a splendid job of singing, delivering the small amounts of spoken text, and looking smashing in their costumes, designed by Gail J Wofford and Kayko Nakamura. This is a very watchable experience, very grand and a splendid night of comic opera.