By Caroline Garrod, Staff Writer
Queen’s Musical Theatre’s (QMT) production of The Mikado opened on Wednesday and was every inch the glorious comic masterpiece that Gilbert and Sullivan originally imagined.
W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s 1885 masterpiece, The Mikado tells the story of the love between Nanki-Poo, the undercover son of the Emperor of Japan (also known as The Mikado), and Yum-Yum, the lovely young ward of the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko. Their love story is complicated by Ko-Ko’s desire to marry Yum-Yum himself, and the fact that Nanki-Poo is already engaged to a woman who he loathes. Gilbert and Sullivan set the play in Japan so as to make fun of contemporary England; the resulting play has very little to do with Victorian Japan, but very much to do with Victorian England. The entire performance buzzed with the sort of lively, spirited comic energy that a Gilbert and Sullivan musical demands. The orchestra was equally excellent; their beautiful music complemented the show impressively. The cast is to be commended for their dedication to hamming it up, even in mid-song and for their careful enunciation of Gilbert’s clever words. Alana Sargeant is adorable as the sweet eyelash-batting Yum-Yum, and Carl Jackson was deliciously droll as Poo-Bah, the pompous cartoon of Victorian aristocrats. Katie Hinchcliffe’s powerful voice lends great majesty to the cartoonish Katisha and Andrew Fraser’s sappy facial expressions brought Nanki-Poo to life. The true star of the show was Peter Nielsen, who was completely delightful as the drippy, self-satisfied Ko-Ko. His physical realization of the character was impressive: it was impossible not to laugh as he flipped and flopped across the stage and contorted his face in exaggerated expressions. His Ko-Ko was every inch the cowardly, blustering bureaucrat that he should be.
His delivery of the List Song (“As Someday It May Happen”) was the undeniable highlight of the show. The song, (which lists societal offenders who “never would be missed”), was modernized to great affect, and included such offending personages as fist bumpers, Homecoming vomiters, Justin Bieber’s hairstylist, the current government and the staff of The Queen’s Journal. The modernized song was met with much laughter and was a great decision on behalf of director Matt Stewart and the rest of the crew. The delicate origami-esque set provided the perfect cartoonish, Oriental flavour to Gilbert and Sullivan’s anachronistic, romanticized Japan. The costumes were also excellent, contributing to the Oriental aesthetic without hindering the actors.
Despite the play’s 19th century origin, and QMT’s traditional interpretation of it, The Mikado is as fresh and witty as it was 126 years ago. One would never know that this production is by a university musical theatre group, as the performance is as polished and the cast as skilled as any professional theatre company. This play is recommended to any fan of musicals, QMT, the witticisms of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse, or anyone who is simply looking for some cheap entertainment.
The Mikado is playing tonight and tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Grand Theatre. Tickets are $25 for adults and $18 for students.
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