John Scowen Reports
Having seen the traditional version of the “Mikado” on several occasions, I was not sure what to expect when I attended TOPS production of “The Chicago Mikado”. There have been many adaptations of the “Mikado” such as the “Hot Mikado and the Swing Mikado” which presupposes to be an upbeat of the traditional.
The orchestra took us through all the songs in the show, and I might add with good tone and not too loud as sometimes this happens at the Thameside able conducted by Richard Wade. We open on a gangster style nightclub which for all tense and purposes could have been in Chicago. TOPS decided to go for this minimalist set which I think was just right for the production. This cast was very well drilled by their director Anne Sullivan who had made sure that all the cast moved effortlessly around the set. The first entrance of the men of the chorus was however a bit slow and therefore we started off without the oomph! That the show should have.
Looking around at the chorus I thought the costumes were exquisite my only bug bear would be that not all the men’s shoes were of the same style and therefore it caught the eye that some of them were plain black and others white and black. On the positive side all the women’s shoes and costumes matched perfectly. Enter Nanki Poodle played by Simon Lambert. This part unfortunately is just one of those parts that you cannot do much with. It is just there and tells part of the story. I thought Simon handled the part well and made the most of his singing talent. The telling of the story of the great Don Mik-Ardo and how KoKo Lusardi was to be married to the YumYum Floretta whom Nanki Poodle loved was well done by Pistachio Tagliatelli played by Lloyd Bonson, whom I thought had the measure of the part and, for me was the actor of the night, he kept up the accent throughout the production and sang with a Chicago drawl.
His other playing actor was Pooh Barbarelli played by Gary Sullivan, Gary is a old hand at Gilbert and Sullivan and although at times sounded a bit like the Godfather portrayed the part well with a great singing voice. The entrance of KoKo Lusardi played by Ken Baker was a little lack lustre for me I wanted to see more passion in the playing of this part Ken slowed the pace of the production down considerable and several lines were lost in the first few speeches which did not bode well. On the entrance of the ladies we saw a different side to the production they were all well timed with their entrance making sure that their footwork and singing matched.
We see the three little maids on tour performed by YumYum Floretta played by Jenny Haxell who had a superb voice and acting skills to match but was not outdone by her two Zucchini Sisters Petty Pois played by Emma Lambert and Peep Boquette played by Rebecca Huish who both handled the accent and the singing with great panache. All these girls in fact the whole of the ladies chorus were simple delightful and made the production flow throughout. The Lyrics which were adapted by Gary Sullivan was excellent there were several jokes that made the audience roar with laughter and quite apt for the production. Again unfortunately the pace slowed with KoKo and Nanki because of loss of lines which was a shame as we were just getting into the swing of the production.
We come to the finale of act 1 when Kattie Sha Sha arrives played by Dawn Peat. I have known Dawn for many years and have seen her grown in stature in her acting and singing. This is a very difficult part to sing and play and I thought Dawn was excellent portraying the wronged women. The finale however is where we should be left wanting more and I am afraid this the first time chorus where not up to the button. They have to sing to cover Kattie Sha Sha spilling the beans about Nanki Poodle but they were a bit under strength in this.
Act 2 starts with Braid the Raven Hair and again the women outshone the men with their singing and precision steps to the number it was a joy to watch. We then go into the Brightly Dawns our Wedding Day song which is a tricky 4 part harmony. I felt the cast excelled themselves in this song and Alan Flint who played Goan Gettit came into his own showing good theatrical technique. Again we then went into a sort of melt down with the entrance of Don Mik-Ardo, this number needs to bold and regal and unfortunately it was a little lame to say the least. John Hunting who played Don Mik-Ardo although looked good needed to be more powerful in his delivery, we should be very scared of him and I was not. I would have also liked to have seen a couple more violin cases with him to show his power.
We did get a wonderful number which named all the Japanese cars which was an ingenious adaptation to the script. Once the Mik-Ardo finds out that his son has been accidently killed we need to see more panic on the cast especially KoKo this would add to the manic movements of their excuses which didn’t quite come off tonight. Koko is told by the other two through the song When a Gangster which was able directed and performed by Pooh Barbarelli and Petty Bois, that he must get the favours of Kattie Sha Sha so that they will not be killed themselves. When then come to one of the most famous songs in the show Tit Willow where KoKo does just that, the song did not have as much impact as it could have.
Kattie Sha Sha then pleads to the Don Mik-Ardo for the life of the three miscreants only to find that Nanki Poodle is still alive. When he returns there should have been more reaction from the chorus after all they thought he was dead! In true Gilbert and Sullivan style everything ends happy ever after and the cast sing their way to happiness. I thought this was a tall order for TOPS and in the most they coped well with the show, there was an array of accents which didn’t help and some of the cast decided not to speak American at all which was a shame. I thought the dancing girls Kate Petit, Alicia Blake and Rebecca Hedges tapped their way commandingly throughout this production. I am sure the cast thoroughly enjoyed themselves as the audience did. Well done.