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Opening Night at MITG&SP's MIKADO: The MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players starred in a thoroughly delightful production of MIKADO!!! Everyone involved should be justifiably proud.
Orchestra: I mention the orchestra first, only because it is invariably acknowledged last. Aaron Cohen and Chad Musser (French horns - yes, there were TWO of them)--were both superb. The remaining brass and the woodwinds were commendable. The remainder of the orchestra, in truth, was only adequate, but we, audience and singers alike, owe our unflagging support and gratitude to all of the musicians for their selfless, invaluable contribution to this fine production. My eternal thanks to all of you for what is too often a thankless job. "Those who can, do. Those of us who cannot, become critics."
Performers: Michael McGuire (Pooh-Bah) was the standout performer of the show, followed closely by Cara Foss (Katisha), Walt Howe (The Mikado), and David C. Jedlinsky (Ko-Ko). Pooh-Bah's acting and singing were both impeccable, especially the clever, varied stage business of appearing dejeuner at all plausible times. (Rice bowl and chopsticks, drooling Chinese noodles, slice of pizza, wine, etc.). Throughout, his singing was as pleasant and polished as was his acting.
Walt Howe (the Mikado)--of naturally imperious stature, augmented by "sacrificed-in-the-name-of-art" shaved scalp and obviously-false, Groucho-Marx eyebrows--stole the stage--except whenever Cara Foss (Katisha) decided it was rightfully HERS, (which, appropriately, was most of the time). His voice and physique were both ideal for the role. His maniacal laugh was perfect -- terrifying, but not ludicrously overdone, as so often is the case.
Katisha was everything a Katisha should be --domineering, but pathetic and pitiable, too. Fittingly, Ko-Ko's ultimate fate was "no such ill plunge in Fortune's lucky bag! [He] might have fared worse with [his] eyes open!" Katisha delivered some VERY fine singing for someone who, I learned afterwards, is actually a soprano. Her acting was similarly skilled and effective.
Like "The Phantom of the Opera's" Christine Daae, David C. Jedlinsky (Ko-Ko) "has been well taught." His stage directions were masterful, starting with our first glimpse of him -- as a humble tailor still plying his craft. His recent promotion to the exalted position of Lord High Executioner has not yet fully registered -- A fitting, sublime touch. When the chorus sings "Defer! Defer! to the Lord High Executioner!" Ko-Ko, out of lifelong habit, immediately bows abjectly, forgetting that HE is now the object of deference. [Inside info: it should be noted that the cleverest of Dave's stage business, as well as the re-write of the Little List, were all his own - he deserves full credit for an excellent job! - mlc]
The Chorus of Schoolgirls, for once, actually LOOKED, BEHAVED, and SOUNDED like a chorus of schoolgirls. The giggling was excessive, perhaps, but thus it is with REAL schoolgirls, too. One of the most captivating pixies was Tova Brown, whose youthful exuberance animated the stage. Afterwards, I learned that Tova is all of thirteen, so that her youthful energy may be the result not only of skillful stage direction, but also of hormones, as well.
All of The Three Little Maids were pleasant, with Randi Kestin (Pitti-Sing) distinctly the finest of the three, both vocally and acting.
Lyrics: The slight rewrites of "My Object All Sublime" by the Mikado, and the major updating of "I've Got a Little List" by Ko-Ko were both brilliant improvements. Gilbert's texts were topical in HIS day; there is no reason that the baseball strike and the O. J. Simpson trial should not receive mention in a current production.
Staging: Marion Leeds Carroll staged a winner. As elaborated above, her interpretation of MIKADO combined the best of traditional G&S productions with a number of clever insights that would be welcome improvements to any MIKADO.
Costumes, Make-up, and Hair: Cara Foss's costumes were fully appropriate, although I might have wished the kimonos to be more heavily starched and worn more meticulously (especially the sometimes-disheveled bows in the back). The women's lipstick, hair treatments, and eye makeup were little short of miraculous: Cara Foss succeeded in transforming nondescript Americans into credible Japanese citizens. The "sweetheart" lips deserve especial mention.
In summary, fine, fine entertainment, at a very affordable price.
-- CARL F. WEGGEL