Quote of the Day: Let the throng of joy advance, with laughing song and merry dance! the company in The Mikado, a Gilbert & Sullivan light opera, that is full of springtime joy. This new adaptation by director Rick Shiomi takes out some of the unfortunate stereotypes of the original production and places the action in Edwardian England. “We have brought Gilbert and Sullivan back to their British home,” says Shiomi in the program notes, “Where cricket, field hockey, public houses and top hats abound.”
As with many older pieces of musical theater and even light opera, the material can be dated, filled with offensive stereotypes, even outright racism and sexism. And, yet, it’s hard to let the stories and their music go. What most of them need, is what Rick Shiomi did with The Mikado. He gave it a make-over. In his New Mikado, he put the story in better context and removes some of the offensive language. I feel sad when a piece of musical theater is cast off because it lacks inclusive language and better perspective. I’m glad that Shiomi agreed to give this piece another look. He is also the director of this year’s Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s production of The Mikado. And, it’s delightful. Full of the amazing music that the duo created. Cast with exuberant and talented performers, and choreographed in fun, even joyful, moves, and of course, the skilled musicians bring it to life. It was truly an evening of lovely entertainment that brought whispers of springtime joy.
All the of the principal actors were spot on. Tyus Beeson as Coleman Coe, or Co Co, was a delight to watch. He gave the character excitement and energy, like a St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun. His facial expressions and moves, together with his voice, were wonderful. I particularly liked Pooh-Bah, played by Alex Kolyszko, with a certain impish charm with just a hint of creepiness. He is all the powerful officers, after all. Margaret Matejcek was a strong Tum Tum, and the poor, heartsick, doomed Franki-Poo was expertly sung by Anthony Rohr. Lara Trujillo, as Katy Shaw, has a powerful and expressive voice. She has a strong command of this character.
If you’ve never attended an opera before, but want to give one a try, The (new) Mikado is a great place to start. It clips along with an energetic score. The chorus handles all those words very well. Even so, some of them will slip by you! They provide a synopsis of the action in the program, but it’s really not hard to follow. If you are a tried and true fan of G & S light operas, you’re sure to enjoy The (new) Mikado with all your same favorite songs, including “It’s Spring, tra la, tra la, tra la…” (words we can all sing along to, at least in our heads), fun costumes (Barb Portinga), 1980’s prom, white and peach gunny sack dresses, as well as a few choice pieces for the principals, and updated language and storytelling.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company is performing The (new) Mikado at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis, MN through April 7, 2019. Directed by Rick Shiomi. Music Conductor is Randal A. Buikema. Choreography by Penelope Freeh. Set Design by Larry Rostad, and Lighting by Alex Flinner. The performance space is in the Plymouth Congregational Church. You can use their parking lot, or the one at the Clinic kitty-corner from the church, after hours, or street parking.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you have favorite shows that could use some updating?
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I’m sure it’s risky to change an older story or play. It is a piece of history even though it has things considered objectional now. Of course, some of our more recent offerings would shock those from fifty years ago.
So true, Diane
Echoing Diane’s comment, I’m not so sure works of fiction should be changed. They’re part of our historical record. It would be like editing Huckleberry Finn.
If it were up to me, I’d have a commentary before or after the run of the play to address audience concerns and talk about how whatever the issues were are a sign of the times from when the piece was written. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend these things didn’t exist, especially as they still do.
Good point, J.H. Some changes are good. Perhaps the setting, casting, and staging with a greater awareness and inclusivity. And, yes, program notes are important as well as opening conversations about those offensive topics.