BWW Review: Lamplighters' NEW MIKADO is Excellence Itself
There has been plenty of talk about the "lack of sensitivity" in Gilbert and Sullivan's British farce, "The Mikado," set in a Japan most often comprised of a white ensemble. But - as ready as this critic may be to defend the "great and virtuous man" - this review must sing the praises of a "new," albeit familiar Mikado, or rather, Ducato.
Lamplighters Music Theatre has reset the operetta to Tiramisu, Milan, and what an excellent production it is. The music and story are as enjoyable as ever, but half the fun comes from discovery of reinvented names and slight references to the original. Not to mention Ellen Brook's fresh direction of a show that Lamplighters has produced - with equal excellence - multiple times.
Nanki Poo becomes Niccolù, a wandering minstrel of the Italian Renaissance, and Yum Yum, the maiden he loves, becomes Amiam, the ward of the Lord High Executioner. Other innovative names include Coco, engaged to marry Amiam; Catiscià, who claims her perjured lover Niccolù; Poobà, whose family pride can be denied with a small insult; Piccia Tuccia, a gentleman of Milan; and Pizzi, Amiam's friend who adds corroborative details.
If these names sound amusing, Miriam Lewis' costume designs are even more so. The tall CharLes Martin steals the production in Poobà's outlandish garbs, including multiple oversized hats to accentuate his uproarious ego. Samuel Rabinowitz's Coco sports a multi-colored garb, complete with rounded glasses and a measuring tape he uses quite frequently to humorous effect. And Michael Orlinsky's Piccia Tuccia carries two daggers at all times, giving the casual character an air of comical menace. There are also two delightful "street entertainers" in all white that mimic unfolding follies.
Musically, "The New Mikado" could do no better than conductor Baker Peeples and his flawless orchestra and cast. Erin O'Meally and Patrick Hagen are spectacular as the romantic lovers Amiam and Niccolù. Ben Brady seems to truly enjoy himself as the self-assured Ducato. Elana Cowen's Pizzi is a pleasure. And Anne Hubble adds a beautiful vulnerability to Catiscià not often seen in the role. Her lighthearted moments with Rabinowitz's boyish Coco are sweet and diverting highlights.
As in most cases, Lamplighters double casts all the roles, but most of the alternating actors have proven themselves elsewhere. The one (sort of) downside of this "Mikado" comes with its scenic design, which borrows from other Lamplighters musicals, but works well. The whimsical world of Gilbert and Sullivan reimagined is more than enough to regale its audience for two and a half hours.
THE NEW MIKADO
Lamplighters Music Theatre
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco
Tickets: 415-978-2787 or ybca.org
Friday August, 19, 8pm
Saturday August 20, 2pm & 8pm
Sunday August 21, 2pm
Bankhead Theater, Livermore
Tickets: 925-373-6800 or bankheadtheater.org
Saturday August 27, 8pm
Sunday August 28, 2pm
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