I haven’t stopped giggling like a schoolgirl since yesterday, when I saw the Lyric Stage Company’s joyous production of THE MIKADO (playing through Oct. 13th). Gilbert & Sullivan operettas were mother’s milk to me ---so, to paraphrase Ko-Ko, “If I have a little weakness, it’s a passion for a night of [D’Oyly Carte].”
Savoyards in Boston have been bemoaning the absence of G&S, and the absence of Bob Jolly in the patter roles, for some time now. Imagine our delight at the reunion of director Spiro Veloudos (who kept the Publick Theatre full of raucous G&S) and Bob Jolly as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, in THE MIKADO.
Veloudos has a magic touch with Mr. Gilbert’s stories, enhancing the lyrics with topical references while always honoring the original intent of Gilbert’s political satire (which, in the case of THE MIKADO, skewers both the legislative and judicial systems). The punishment, for instance, to fit the crime of singing off-key now is to be stuck in a room serenading Tea Party Mormons (instead of the usual wax figures). The punishment for defacing the T with graffiti now is to be delayed on a B line train! (And we know how frustrating that is.)
Veloudos’s biggest coup of the production, though, is his interpretation of the Mikado role, which, now that I’ve witnessed it, I can’t imagine why no one else saw the opportunity. The Mikado is always upstaged by his future daughter-in-law but he usually glares and gets on with his empire business. In Veloudos’ brilliant imagining, the emperor is powerless in her presence. In fact, he’s a bit distracted, a bit confused at times, not fully understanding all the fuss.
What wonderful fuss there is in THE MIKADO with an executioner who has never harmed a fly (the glorious Bob Jolly), a whopping lie about performing an execution (backed up by the hilarious David Kravitz and the spunky Teresa Winner Blume) and a furious daughter-in-law elect (the incomparable Leigh Barrett) who thinks her fiancé has been beheaded.
He hasn’t been, of course and everything will be “satisfactory” in the end but not until there’s been lots of “laughing song and merry dance.” Davron S. Monroe is the wandering minstrel who is really the Mikado’s son. (I think his supple serenade is the loveliest I’ve ever heard in the role.) Erica Spyres is his sweet, silly beloved and she and Blume and Stephanie Granade are the three little girls from school who terrorize Kravitz. Rishi Basu is an imperious Pish-Tush and Brian Richard Robinson is anachronistically amusing as a secret service agent.
Act I has many musical pleasures (under Jonathan Goldberg’s direction).My favorites are Jolly’s “Little List of Society Offenders” and the Jolly/Kravitz/Basu trio which ends with a triumphant tongue twister (which is repeated at the Lyric, even faster, in the style of patter songs).
Act II has Timothy John Smith as the thoughtful, perhaps philosophical emperor who enjoys the goings on but doesn’t quite grasp the gist all the time. Hands down (or hands up, if you have stunning red nails like the emperor’s) he’s the funniest Mikado I’ve ever seen.
The production is packed with humorous touches like the “Mi-ya-Sa-ma” song which is now the Mitsubishi song and the completely wacky, gestural “How-de-do.” Even though I missed a full orchestra and I lamented not hearing about “wretched, meritorious B,” the Lyric’s MIKADO is the best balm there is for election exhaustion.