Special to the Journal
First mounted in 1885, Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular play, "The Mikado," has endeared itself to countless audiences with its promise of glorious voices singing witty, tuneful numbers that poke fun at the conventional order of things. Weston Playhouse Theatre Company,s current, clever production of "The Mikado" delivers all of that, while breathing new life into a classic war horse of musical theatre.
"The Mikado," set in the playwrights, very English version of nineteenth century Japan, follows the fortunes of Nanki-Poo, a lowly wandering minstrel in love with Yum-Yum, the beautiful ward of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. Unable to marry above his station, Nanki-Poo is distraught and resolves to hang himself.
Just the ticket for Ko-Ko, who must execute someone - anyone - soon, lest the Most High Mikado of Japan remove the Province of Titipu's official and exalted standing. Ko-Ko tells Nanki-Poo that he may marry his beloved Yum-Yum for a single month, after which he will lose his head for the offense of flirting. Complications ensue when Nanki-Poo is revealed to be the only heir of the Mikado, pledged long ago to wed another, the imposing and vengeful Katisha. Will Nanki-Poo lose his head? Will Ko-Ko lose his head? Not to worry.
Director Tim Fort's spin was to present the evening as an acting troupe's final technical rehearsal of "The Mikado." An entire
D.B. Bonds, who portrayed the doomed lead in this season's production of "Urinetown: The Musical," shone as Nanki-Poo. His high tenor blended nicely with the lilting soprano of Tracy Michailidis, as Yum-Yum. Her rendition of "The Sun, Where Rays Are All Ablaze," sung in full costume in the beginning of the second act, was simply enchanting.
As was true for everyone in the cast, Jim Ortlieb, as Ko-Ko, displayed deft comedic timing. Not possessed of a powerful singing voice, Ortlieb's diction and tone fit the bill nicely with his interpretation of "I've Got A Little List", which supposedly details those who merit beheading. Here, a traditional parody of the song named, among others, devotees of the DaVinci Code and those who purchase vacation homes in Vermont and then whine about too much snow.
Ko-Ko's marriage proposal to the frightful Katisha, hilariously portrayed by Kelly Ebsary with snorts and glares, had last Thursday's preview audience guffawing. Ebsary, by the way, had a voice one could feel from the back rows of the Playhouse.
T. Doyle Leverett added a playful zest to his turn as the Mikado, who first appears in the second act. Andre Montgomery and Allie Laurie contributed a ridiculous officiousness to their roles as Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, and as Pish-Tush, a noble lord.
Admittedly, I am a sucker for a good men's chorus and with the aid of Musical Director, F. Wade Russo, this production boasted a great one. Comprised of Thomas J. Cox, Michael Hicks, Brian Massey, Colin Campbell McAdoo, and Eli Zoller, they were often joined by Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush. Well done, gentlemen. Well done, indeed!
On the other side of the gender coin, the gentler sex's performance of "Three Little Maids from School," featuring Yum-Yum, Amy Fitts as Pitti-Sing, and Demi Fragale as Peep-Bo, and school girls played by Kim Allen, Diana Glazer, and Susan Haefner, did not disappoint.
For those already familiar with "The Mikado," as well as for those who have never seen any play by William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, Weston's inventive offering is a perfect tonic for a hot summer evening.
Performances of "The Mikado" continue at the Weston Playhouse through Aug. 19. For tickets, call the box office at 802- 824-5288, or visit on-line at www.westonplayhouse.org.