The Mikado is one of the most beloved Gilbert and Sullivan shows, with many well-known songs and characters, a love triangle (or, more accurately, square), and plenty of opportunity for modern updates – who will end up being “on the list”? However, Gilbert and Sullivan is a very particular taste and non-fans may find it a hard slog, despite the quality of this particular version.
In their latest production, the G & S Society has created a Mikado that is a delightful and slightly bemusing mix of traditional Japanese styling, modern Anime and exaggerated Westernisation. This works well with the overall atmosphere of the libretto, which seems to be based on a much skewed 19th century view of what Japan was like rather than any factual knowledge. The set (David Lampard, Matthew Miller et al) captures the beautiful simplicity of Japanese styling, with attractive lighting incorporated to add detail. It does seem a little restrictive to the large cast at times, but this can be forgiven fairly easily thanks to its other virtues. The costumes (David Lampard, Bronwen Major et al) are plentiful and opulent, with bright colours abounding and an attractive combination of traditional and modern styles.
Ian Andrew and Liana Nagy are well cast as the two young lovers, Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum. They meet the vocal demands of the roles while also injecting enough warmth and humour into their characterisations to be enjoyable as actors. Joining Nagy to complete the “three little maids” are Sarah Nagy and Natalie Tate, who provide good support in group numbers while holding their own in solos.
David Lampard presents an energetic Ko-Ko, making the most of the comedic role, while Timothy Ide (Pooh-Bah) and Patrick Witcombe (Pish-Tush) both excel vocally, with attractive sonorous voices to compliment their wonderful comic timing. Danii Zappia fulfils the part of Kitisha, the problematic fiancé of Naki-Poo, with just the right combination of authority and self-deprecation, and in the title role, David Rapkin is suitably dignified while also channelling the cheeky irreverence needed.
The lead performers were ably supported by a large chorus, the male component of which was particularly impressive. Their combined voices soared in such numbers as ‘If you want to know who we are’, ‘Behold the Lord High Executioner’, and the finales of each act.
Despite the strong performances from the cast and the overall impressive production values, there were some aspects of the show which did not quite meet expectations. The use of synthesised rather than live string parts and some issues with the musicians overpowering the singers in some small group numbers are key examples. That being said, this is another impressive offering from the G&S Society, who continue to produce high quality shows, featuring the work of very talented local artists. Fans of G&S will no doubt lap this production up.