The program cover states “REIMAGINING A MUSICAL MASTERPIECE”. This version of The Mikado certainly started in a different way. Before the overture, we were presented with a prologue of what preceded the opening of the first production. The dialogue between Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte showed the process of how the production came to fruition. Quite enlightening. The letter exchange between the creators was a nice touch and gathered some laughter from the audience. From there the overture flowed to the rehearsal scenes of that first production. The scripts of the show had the name printed on the front cover but the pages inside were blank. Slight oversight there. From there the show progressed to being a full production in Act 2.
The Musical Director, Timothy John Wilson had great control over the orchestra. Nice balance between the pit and the performers on stage. The female ensemble were excellent, beautiful harmonies maintained throughout with some lovely voices evident. The male ensemble were at times a little shaky but overall not too bad.
The set was fairly basic but portrayed the atmosphere of the time quite well. The transfer between the prologue and the performance stage was very well managed. Kudos to the crew. More use of the fly tower would have added interest. The actual stage area was bare of dressing except for a couple of stools used for a short time. With such an expansive stage in use, it was quite bare of interest. The rostra used for the entrances could have been more “grand” by the use of colour. The folding doors used were well thought out but tended to be fiddly. The costumes of some of the ensemble were untidy and not well fitted. Hems of some of the dresses and trousers showed obvious alterations and needed to be pressed. Principal costumes were overall quite good.
Andrew Alesi was very good in his role as The Mikado of Japan. Nice singing and characterization. Cameron Sibly displayed a beautiful tenor voice as Nanki-Poo. Great control and an effortless delivery. However the acting side of the performance was quite wooden. Relax and enjoy! Luke Belle was outstanding as Ko-Ko. Another lovely voice and the characterization which, at times almost went just that little bit too far, but thankfully didn’t. Gianfranco Filonzi’s characterisation of the many roles held by Pooh-Bah was very good. Different character voices used for the many occupations was well managed. Paul Tooby as Pish-Tush was another solid performance with good vocals and character portrayal.
Jordan Kahler as Katisha was excellent in her portrayal of a spurned lover. Stunning voice and excellent characterisation. Alone, and yet alive was a stunning performance. Sofia Laursen Habel gave a polished performance as Yum-Yum with a beautiful true soprano voice supported by credible acting presence. Melanie O’Brien and Bonnie Keynes as Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo respectively also had lovely voices and credible performances. Three Little Maids was a vocal highlight for me.
The direction by Andrew McGrail was for the most part very good. Movements were fluent and well managed. Characterisations were well thought out and realised. One sore point however. Would someone who is directing an ensemble please refrain from the tired and very annoying ploy of using straight lines. Or semi-circles. Grouping of the people in the background can enhance the action occurring downstage. And if people are going to be advancing through gaps in the line in front, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Some extremely good ideas were ruined by a couple of people being totally out of position and pulling focus. At one stage, one of the ensemble didn’t know where they were supposed to be and shuffled their way to the end of the line, eventually, which is probably where they weren’t supposed to be. And if you are going to use banners, make sure that they are all waving the same way at the same time. Frustrating to watch. The idea was good, but the execution was not. Sometimes less is more.
Overall, a very pleasant night spent in Titipu.