The Mikado

By W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
Performed by Keith Savage, June Crowley, Rebecca Poff, Christopher Wilson & Company
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Music Director: John Karr
Choreographer: Jackie Mustakas
Drayton Entertainment, Huron Country Playhouse
August 16 to September 2, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Keith Savage’s Ko-Ko makes ‘em laugh

Some of Huron Country Playhouse’s favourite performers have returned to wrap up the 2006 season in Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operetta, The Mikado. Keith Savage steals the stage as Ko-Ko, along with Rebecca Poff as Katisha. Savage and Poff were Harold Hill and Marian the Librarian in HCP’s The Music Man, and both have been very popular in their many appearances in recent years.

Gilbert & Sullivan wrote The Mikado in 1885 to satirize what they viewed as corruption in British parliament. They set their comedy in Japan, which at that time was a very exotic location, and to add to the silliness, gave all their characters ‘baby-talk’ names, such as Nanki-Poo or Pish-Tush.

Director Alex Mustakas has put his own touch on the absurdity and capitalized on Savage and Poff’s comedic brilliance. When all the characters are carrying typical Japanese fans, Savage, as Ko-Ko has to one-up them. Eventually he brings out a huge electric fan and practically blows them off the stage. I doubt if those directions were in the original script, but Mustakas and his cast pull it off.

Mustakas takes the liberty of cleverly updating the lyrics for Ko-Ko’s song about his little list. Ko-Ko has just been appointed Lord High Executioner and learns that he must kill someone. So he develops a list of who should die. When I heard the annoying Dr. Phil’s name on the list, I realized that Ko-Ko had strayed from the original lyrics. TV, and rightly so, is a popular target in the new version. Ko-Ko points out that there are too many murders on television:

“Law & Order, CSI, they’re broadcast every night

I’m overwhelmed, so I’m the guy who’ll banish them from sight.

Then we’ve all those tone-deaf Idols—chopping them I can’t resist,

That singing won’t be missed – chop them off, I do insist”

Also excellent in the cast is Christopher Wilson as Pooh-Bah, June Crowley as Yum-Yum, Peter McCutcheon as Nanki-Poo, and Marcus Nance as Mikado. . An excellent chorus backs them. Every cast member can sing and contributes to the beautiful music.

The set is simple, yet very well done, with delightful oriental scenes on the backdrops. Costumes are colourful and the lighting is flawless.

This comic operetta is a curious mix of absurd humour and talented, well-trained voices. It offers an evening of good entertainment, including poking fun at politicians. We learn that little has changed in that department in the last 120 years.

The Mikado continues with eight shows a week until September 2 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000 or Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463.

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