The Mikado continues at the Charing Cross Theatre, London until 3 January 2015.
Award-winning director Thom Southerland has eschewed the traditional staging of the ever popular Mikado and has, instead, opted to move Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta into the 1920s. His take is set in the Titipu Umbrella and Fan Factory, owned by The Mikado. All the familiar characters remain intact, as do the songs, except for some minor (but wicked) tweaking that gives some current relevance – more of this anon.
No doubt this treatment is bound to upset the traditionalists – a couple of rumblings were heard at the interval. For the rest of us, who have embraced other interpretations in the past – one thinks of Hot Mikado for instance – Southerland’s novel take presents no problems. What evolves is a fun packed and thoroughly entertaining show.
The 1920s setting provides an opportunity for some first-class choreography (by Joey McKneely) utilising the Charleston and other period dances. The three little maids have lost their usual demureness and emerge as saucy flappers. It is as though Polly Brown and her friends have absconded from Mme Dubonnet’s School for Young Ladies after finding it to be no longer nicer in Nice, preferring instead Titipu’s titillations.
The cast is strong, both in its principals and ensemble. Rebecca Caine makes a formidable Katisha, truly comic when she sings in praise of sadism but heart-rending when she delivers a most delicate ‘Alone, and Yet Alive’. The beautiful voice of Leigh Coggins does full justice to ‘The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze’. Her Yum-Yum is deliciously lively. Matthew Crowe’s Nanki-Poo is a rather nerdish young, man while Jacob Chapman gives a camp edge to Pish-Tush.
Much of the comedy emanates from the role of Ko-Ko and Hugh Osborne is in splendid form as he fusses and dithers along. He is blessed with a marvellously wicked updating of his little list – surely the most funny and up-to-date list ever. It continues the satire that G&S were renowned for as it lampoons politicians Mellor and Mitchell, as well as television personalities and social media. More witticisms follow on when The Mikado (Mark Heenehan) sets out his punishments to fit the crime. For the haters of musical theatre he would impose a meal at Joe Allen/with the sisters Strallen.
Musical accompaniment is provided by Dean Austin and Noam Galperin at two pianos. Their playing does not dominate, thereby allowing the lyrics to be heard.