THE MIKADO: Show Review by Hannah Singer


When my daughter was 4, she was glued to the tv where an opera was being shown. I was floored! I have been meaning to take her to an opera since then. Luckily now that she is a tween, I had the opportunity to do just that. And it did not disappoint.

I had not been familiar with The Mikado and am not a follower of all that is Gilbert & Sullivan as many people in NYC are.  But this production has changed me. I am now a fan of both! Well, I am also now a fan of the NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players.

This is NYGASP’s 45th year. The Mikado is an operetta in two acts which premiered in London in 1885. Libretto was written by William S. Gilbert and the music by Arthur Sullivan.

We arrived at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on December 28 at 12:45pm in order to participate in the “Family Overture”, a musical intro and summary explained and made interesting for all ages and free for ticket holders. It looked like four generations of people were there spanning perhaps 80 years.

We sat right in front, and there was a man in a Mikado t-shirt and a man on the electric piano. Later I found out that the man was the Music Director/Conductor, Albert Bergeret, who ultimately put on a suit for the show. He surprisingly is also the Artistic Director. General Manager as well as Founder of NYGASP (I just love the acronym).  He made the synapsis entertaining and sang parts as well. He engaged the audience and often asked children and grownups questions. Since we were right in front of him, he often spoke to my daughter and asked questions and I was happily surprised at what she knew! Like what does Mikado mean (means title of Emperor of Japan).

The show began at 2 pm and the operetta opened to Gilbert & Sullivan in the offices of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. We had been told by Bergeret to look for references to names that would be used later in the show. There were plenty like yum-yum and titipu. We were humorously introduced to some of the actors that would be in their production. And suddenly Gilbert was hit in the head and knocked down when a Japanese sword to be used in the show accidentally hit him. Then the dream begins.

The land that we see is a fantastical  world, the town of Titipi. And the characters are played by actors that Gilbert was working with in the show’s “real life”.  His writing partner, Sullivan plays one of the main parts of Ko-Ko in this kooky world in his dream. This production company has changed things a bit from the known productions. There are references throughout of today’s world we live in. Some things mentioned are Paypal, Shopify, and even Trump! It was very funny each time there was a modern reference and the crowd applauded with the Trump reference! Some of the costumes were also modern. I saw a Sherlock Holmes and a Captain Jack Sparrow! And did a few in the ensemble have some sort of buildings as hats? It was fun noticing these offbeat costumes by Quinto Ott.

Everyone in the play was superb. Two of my favorites were Caitlin Burke who played the mean old Katisha (great make-up by James Mills) in love with Nanki-Poo (the son of the Mikado played by John Charles McLaughlin). We saw her after the show and she was all smiles unlike in the production where she played a great villain.

And the other stand-out for me was David Macaluso who played Ko-Ko. And not only because he posed with my daughter for a picture after the show! He was hysterically funny and witty and engaging. He reminded me of a cross between Dudley Moore and Giancarlo Giannini. His face was so expressive, and his physical humor matched perfectly to it. He is a star rising.

The singing was superb, and the costumes and staging unique and striking. The story takes place in Japan yet the characters are dressed in Victorian costume. And wackiness ensues! It was a fast –paced entertaining romp with beautiful voices and music. And a happy ending for all, and my two favorite characters and actors end up together in the end!

Throughout the play, my daughter and I must have looked at each other smiling or laughing, dozens of times. We were highly entertained and look forward to the next NYGASP production!

The show’s cast includes: David Wannen as The Mikado (also the show’s producer); David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko; Matthew Wages as Richard D’Oyly Carte and pompous Pooh-Bah; David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush; John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo, Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; Sarah Caldwell Smith as Yum Yum; Rebecca Hargrove as maiden sister Peep-Bo, and mellifluous mezzo Amy Maude Helfer as adventurous Pitti-Sing.

The comic opera has  original choreography and direction by NYGASP Associate Stage Director David Auxier -Loyola and Assistant Direction by Broadway performer/director Kelvin Moon Loh. Music Director and Conductor is Albert Bergeret and the Associate Conductor is Joseph Rubin. Director & Choeography by David Auxier-Loyola. The Costume Designer is Quinto Ott and Scenic Design is Anshuman Bhatia. The Lighting Designer is Benjamin Weill and Makeup is James Mills. Production Stage Manager is Joshua Strone and the Assistant Stage Manager is Annette Dieli. Gail J Wofford is head of wardrobe as well as co-founder of NYGASP. And Elizabeth Rodgers is an Accompanist.

The NYGASP Orchestra:

Violin – Robert Lawrence (concert chair), Andreas Andros, Valerie Levy, Ellen Gronningen, Barney Stevens, Peter Borten, Alyson Whalen

Viola – Carol Benner, Carol Landon

Cello – Susan Poliacik, Diana Golden

Bass – Deb Spohnheimer

Flute – Margaret Swinchoski, Melanie Bradford

Oboe: Nancy Ranger

Clarinet: Larry Tietze, Joan Porter

Bassoon – Susan Shaw

French Horn – Stephen Quint, Peter Hirsch

Trumpet – Terry Szor, Richard Titone

Trombone – Steve Shulman, Paul Geidel

Percussion – Ingrid Gordon

 

Visit http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/kayeplayhouse and https://nygasp.org

 

The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
East 68th Street between Park & Lexington Avenues, NYC
Telephone: (212) 772-4448

The show is running through January 5th.

 

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