libretto by W.S. Gilbert music by Arthur Sullivan.
Charing Cross Theatre The Arches Villiers Street WC2N 6NL To 3 January 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 23, 28, 30 Dec 1 Jan 3pm.
no performance 24-26, 31 Dec.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 930 650.
Review: William Russell 2 December.
Here’s A How-De-Do!.
Set in the Titipu Fan and Parasol Factory, Thom Southerland’s version of Gilbert & Sullivan is a delight, although he has not really carried through his concept to great effect.
Updating The Mikado is always a temptation, since opting for Japanese costumes and orange blossom – topical and ripe for satire when Gilbert wrote the libretto – really works no longer. The bench-mark is Jonathan Miller all-white 1920s version, which remained in English National Opera’ repertoire for decades. Mr Southerland’s staging, also set in the 1920s, does not surpass it but holds its own nicely could win many more aficionados to G&S.
The small cast sing well, there is inventive choreography by Joey McKneely, and a handsome department-store set by Phil Lindley. Matthew Crowe is a charming Nanki-Poo, the wandering minstrel, more mince-trel than minstrel, but that works well as Leigh Coggins’ Yum-Yum, the little girl from school he loves, is clearly no pushover. Her soprano could shatter crystal and she delivers ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ with great no-nonsense style.
The women’s chorus do justice to ‘Braid The Raven Hair’, one of Sullivan’s loveliest melodies. Mark Heenehan is a sonorous Mikado, Hugh Osborne delivers the comic goods as Ko-Ko, and Jacob Chapman and Steve Watts are on fine form as Pish-Tush and Pooh-Bah.
The star of the show, however, is Rebecca Caine as Katisha, the Mikado’s daughter-in-law-elect. She is a remarkably glamorous Katisha – Gilbert had a thing about lovelorn elderly maiden ladies. This one, however, is a little ravaged but by no means over the hill, and when things get operatic in Act Two Ms Caine is an alarmingly splendid spectacle as she delivers ‘There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Beast’ entangled in a feather boa and the clothes of a dominatrix.
Mr Southerland could arguably have made more of his department-store setting, although heaven forefend, his doing a Grace Brothers. He has also come up with the funniest ‘little list’ in years for Ko-Ko.
Things in this Titipu are just fine. As for the music, the next best thing to Rawicz and Landauer are on the grand pianos.
Katisha: Rebecca Caine.
Pish-Tush: Jacob Chapman.
Yum-Yum: Leigh Cogggins.
Nanki-Poo: Matthew Crowe.
The Mikado: Mark Heenehan.
Pitti-Sing: Cassandra McCowan.
Ko-Ko: Hugh Osborne.
Peep-Bo: Sophie Rohan.
Pooh-Bah: Steve Watts.
Ensemble: Andrew Dovaston, Alyssa Martyn, Kayleigh McKnight, George Tebutt, Zac Wancke, Josh Wylie.
Director: Thom Southerland.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Musical Director: Dean Austin.
Choreographer: Joey McKneely.
Costume: Jonathan Lipman.
Associate musical director: Noam Galperin.