Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 7, 2010

The Mikado

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
March 6, 2010
By Karolina Sadowicz

One of Gilbert and Sullivan's best loved operettas, "The Mikado," is a comic romp set in feudal Japan. It's the tale of Nanki-Poo (John Farchione), a prince disguised as a minstrel, who hopes to marry Yum-Yum (Lauren-Rose King), the beautiful ward and sometime betrothed of the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, the self-involved and cowardly Ko-Ko (Jason Whitfield).

When the Mikado (Andrew Ford), emperor of Japan, demands that Ko-Ko fulfills the duties of his office by actually executing someone within one month, Ko-Ko must find a victim in order to save his own head. Nanki-Poo, who claims he could not bear to live without Yum-Yum, agrees to be beheaded by month's end, as long as he can marry her first. Their scheme is threatened by the arrival of Katisha (Emily Geller), a "cougar" from the Mikado's court who was jilted by Nanki-Poo, and a surprise visit from the Mikado himself.

Mistaken identities, broken hearts, and hidden agendas form this operatic farce, which gleefully makes light of bureaucracy and politicians. Under the direction of Jim Charles, the actors enjoy occasional ad-libs and wink at the audience with jokes about modern politicians, from Governor Peterson, to both Clintons, to Scott Brown, as well as giving nods to the local audience with a few quips about Pittsfield.

The elegant set evokes Japan though screens, red gates, and cherry blossoms, and is dramatically transformed through bold, vivid lighting design. The ensemble is a delight to watch in colorful kimonos, and their vocal performances are superb. Farchione is unassuming and masculine as Nanki-Poo, King is disarmingly alluring as the vain Yum-Yum. Whitfield's Ko-Ko is irresistibly funny and likable despite his cowardice, and quickly becomes the audience favorite. Andrew Lipman is a Falstaffian bureaucrat and earns huge laughs as the corrupt uber-administrator Poo-Bah, insisting on being "insulted" with bribes in order to bend laws and share secrets freely.

Each actor brings excellent vocals and physical comedy to this swiftly moving, delightful production. "The Mikado" is 125 years old, but with modern touches and energy, it thrills and amuses without showing its age.