Review by: Terry Rymer (NODA Rep East Dist 6)
Here we had a show which came through significant directional changes in its early stages and the team who undertook the production deserve praise for the togetherness of the cast and the overall enthusiasm which came across. The assistants to The Director and Choreographer therefore deserve a mention, so take bow, Christine Mullord, Alice Cushion, Zak Poll and Dance Capt Alice Cushing. The chorus for this somewhat unusual take on the G and S genre were well drilled and always effervescent on stage, which was quite often, as with most G and S stories, adding some excellent renditions and support to the principals. We had Nanki-Poo, (Terry Boast) who, after a trifle nervous start, really warmed to the task and proved an able leading man and would be suitor to Yum-Yum (Joanne Forster), whose demeanour and vocals were nicely portrayed; we especially enjoyed her ‘Three Little Maids’ with, Pitti-Sing (Emily Holt) and Peep-Bo (Ruth Alder), who completed this excellent supporting trio. Yum-Yum lived up to her name and looked every inch the leading lady and likely would be wife for self appointed, ex tailor KO-KO, The Lord High Executioner (Chris Steed), with the penchant for sartorial elegance in the form of a shocking pink suit, blonde wig and mild affectations (really!). He had the unfortunate task of obeying the Mikado’s behest to execute at least one citizen within the next month! (Gangland style?). The multi tasked Pooh- Bah (Gary Watson), who by his own decree was the holder of most, if not all, the ‘Lord High’ positions of authority serving the Mikado! Except one!... He was the victim of his own laws and duplicity having to change both demeanour and vocal delivery for each role, in this guise he found extreme personal anxiety as so well expressed in the ‘patter song’, but perhaps his transformations were a tad too extreme and led to a certain amount of confusion for him and the audience (it is always a difficult task !). We admired his versatility! As did Pish-Tush (Helen Watson) who as a sort of ‘secretary bird’ or as she puts it, “The coolest woman in Japan” obviously enjoying the shenanigans (good word!), she certainly complemented the action.
The Mikado (Bob Sharman) was certainly the gangland ‘Mafia’ king pin and looked the part. His lack of tapping was nicely covered by a clever ‘Hand puppetry’ tap from Mike Catling. He made a grand entrance (could it have been grander?) in Act 2 with the ‘older’ femme fatal Katisha ( Harriet Chambers) again in tow and how she relished the opportunity to pursue the seemingly very sought after Nanki-Poo, who was of course revealed as the long lost Mikado’s son! She was so right for the part and conveyed her intentions with style. We loved her ‘Hour of Gladness’ and finale to Act 1 with Yum- Yum, Pitti-Sing and Chorus!
It is a story of will they won’t they, and no doubt the plot is better portrayed via the original G and S intentions. However the ‘Night Club’ and Gangster themes worked well for the ever watchable ensemble relishing their Gangster and Moll personas. The small but effective orchestra very prominently placed as centre piece on the stage, adding to the atmosphere. It was a particular pleasure to see so many younger faces gracing the stage, their enthusiasm was infectious! But I must say it was occasionally hard to envisage the scenario of the plot in these surroundings. The sheer musicality of the piece has to be admired and the variations of singing style must have stretched the patience of the MD, so a big well done to the musical team who had their work cut out… G and S can be seen in many unusual formats and this piece in particular is one such, which may confound stalwart followers of the genre, but those who enjoy a fantasy romp accompanied by some great singing should have enjoyed this…the cast certainly did!