Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of Pacific Opera Project's THE MIKADO
Reviving their own production, Pacific Opera Project's The Mikado recently opened in Los Angeles. With an opening comes the opinions of critics.
POP's colorful production, called "about the most fun one can have in a Los Angeles theater right now" (Maestro Arts & Reviews) updates Gilbert & Sullivan's most popular operetta, The Mikado, with Harajuku costumes, inspired by the district of Tokyo famous for its wild mix of colors and styles. Eye-popping colors, intricate choreography, and zany antics give this beloved classic a signature POP twist while a reworked libretto is sure to surprise even Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados with its unique take on what was originally a thinly-veiled skewering of British nobility and politics. Lyrics originally written to take a jab at people who may even have been in the audience will, in the grand tradition, be revamped to poke fun at current people and issues.
The production's cast features E. Scott Levin (Ko-Ko), Phil Meyer (Pooh-bah), Charlie Kim (Nanki-poo), Janet Todd (Yum-Yum), Matthew Welch(Mikado), Abbe Drake (Pitty-Sing), Tiffany Ho (Peep-Bo), Adelaide Sinclair (Katisha), William Vallandigham (Pish), and Benjamin Howard (Tush). The production is directed by Artistic Director Josh Shaw and Music Director Parisa Zaeri leads the chamber orchestra. Maggie Green costumes the 28 singers.
Read the reviews below!
Jim Farber, Daily News: On the other hand, the approach Shaw takes to "The Mikado" throws cultural/political correctness right out the window. Everything is played strictly (and as often heavy-handedly) for laughs. Bata boom! And, as is common in productions of "The Mikado," songs like "I Have a Little List" and "The Punishment Fit the Crime" have been updated (with new lyrics by Kelsey Shaw) to include references to Facebook posts, LA traffic jams, Donald Trump's wall, and the lifestyle of the Kardashians! There's even a skillfully inserted pitch for money.
Gordon Williams, Opera Wire: If you're playing the Mikado himself, you have to wait three-quarters of the show to make your entrance, and I dare say singers sweat on it. Matthew Ian Welch's sadistic, dancing generalissimo - quite a contrast to the usually sedate "heavenly sovereign" - was well worth the wait, and his delivery of "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" deservedly stopped the show.
Eric A. Gordon, People's World: The production's starry cast features the sad-sack E. Scott Levin as the klutzy Ko-Ko, dressed in orange ("a convict from the county jail," you know), whose rendition of "I've Got a Little List" is substantially revised to include many updated references, and whose "Tit-Willow" is both achingly touching and hilariously arch. TV fans from a bygone era may recall Groucho Marx in the role of Ko-ko. There is always, with G&S, a kind of tacit conspiracy between actors and the audience awaiting the hot-off-the-presses additions to the lyrics, and this production does not disappoint (though appreciative laughter, I must admit, obscured several of them to my ears).
Jim Farber, San Francisco Classical Voice: Every comic opera company needs a reliable buffoon. And for POP that task is generally handed to F. Scott Levin. Here he appears as the befuddled Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko. With his bushy beard, thick black-rimmed glasses, and fresh from the County Jail orange jumpsuit, he looks a lot like Harvey Weinstein. Subtle he is not. But his sad account of that broken-hearted tomtit ("On a tree by a river") was actually quite moving.
Georja Umano, Splash Magazines: This is where one can really separate the experienced performers - those who not only deliver their character and hit their notes, and who you can actually understand their every word. Although you can generally understand what is going on in the scenes, when you really grasp the words, it becomes that much more enjoyable. The masters not only of their art but in delivering this specific style are clearly Sinclair and Meyers, as well as Julia Aks as alternating Pitti-Sing. When these characters are onstage it is pure delight. Aks' improving with Elizabeth Rigby Jones as Peep-Bo is also fun to watch.
Photo Credit: Martha Benedict