Tuesday, 2 June 2015

THE MIKADO by The People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

I've had the pleasure of seeing some brilliant shows at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, and many have really excited me as a theatre goer. Shows like "Macbeth" and "Les Miserables" have really impressed me and "The Mikado" can be added to that list.

This is an amazing, fautless, funny and wildly entertaining show that has been updated to show the Japanese gentlemen dressed in smart suits and bowler hats, a cross between "Man Men" and "The Clockwork Orange".

It's the story of Nanki Poo who arrives in a small Japanese village called Titipu. he is in search of his love, Yum Yum, who unfortunately for him is betrothed to KoKo, who has been appointed the Chief High Executioner as a way of avoiding being killed himself for the crime of flirting. there has been no executions since KoKo was appointed and to stop the town from being downgraded to a village, KoKo has to execute someone. As Nanki Poo is a rival for KoKo, guess who is number one on the list. There is only one thing, KoKo has never executed anyone and he did not intend to start now, plus there is more than meets the eye with Nanki Poo.

The People's Theatre Company have put together a stellar cast for this Gilbert & Sullivan spectacular, which is one of their most loved and most performed operettas. Do not let that term put you off either, "operetta".Gilbert & Sullivan are the operetta equivalent to Shakespeare in their wit and wordplay and there's so much fun to be had in this tuneful musical masterpiece.

Drew Dennis (Nanki Poo) shows off a well trained, controlled voice for opera, but that is no surprise as he is part of the Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company, as is Stephen Godward (Pooh Bar), both of which turn in brilliant performances both acting wise and musically. Stephen also highlighting his ability for comic characterization.

Tom Parry (KoKo) makes a wonderful comedy pairing with Stephen as the Executioneer and plays KoKo as a cockney wideboy complete with suit, wide tie and spats, adding even further to the comedy of the character. Tom does not often take to the stage and I wondered why after seeing him as KoKo because he is wonderfully natural in this comedy role without it being forced.

Pish Tush, one of the gentlemen of Titipu, is another brilliant character. Played by John Carter, he tries to suppress the comic side of the play and introduce a more serious side but without fail because by doing this, he actually enhances the humour. Think Captain Peacock from "Are You Being Served" and that's what effect you get.

And then there are some wonderful female roles. Alexandra Hazard (Yum Yum) has a gorgeous voice which falls so easy on the ear. Crystal clarity and again a natural for playing the comedic side of the character. What a wonderful performance from Alexandra.

Elaine Bishop (Pitti Sing - which is English baby talk for "pretty thing"), really lives up to the "pretty thing" title and she also is blessed with a wonderful clear mezzo soprano voice and a natural acting ability as well. An accomplished performer and no stranger to the Gilbert & Sullivan circuit.

And I loved Jean Krzeminski as Katisha, the lady promised to Nanki Poo as his wife. Once more, another gorgeous and controlled voice and a very stylish, comedy performance. Jean has been performing Gilbert & Sullivan operettas since she was 16, and that love for the musical style really shows.

The enunciation of the clever lyrics of W S Gilbert brought home the rich humour of the text. You could hear every single word, spoken and sung, and all this without the aid of microphones. This again showing the professional standard of all the actors with their clarity and projection.

And what a brilliant orchestra. Sixteen piece led by Derek Williams and directed by Andrew Nicklin, giving a beautiful rounded musical sound. If you hadn't known that there was a live orchestra in the pit, you would have sworn that you were listening to a CD of the music.

I can't recommend this show enough or praise it higher. A truly professional show from every one involved and I imagine that Andrew Nicklin, who also directed "The Mikado" must be a very proud and happy man with this show. And that goes for all the actors, musicians, lighting and sound people.

"The Mikado" can be seen at the Nottingham Arts Theatre on Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, but on the strength of their opening night, I'd get in there really quick... and while you're at it, get a discount when you buy tickets for Puccini's"Madame Butterfly" which is on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night as well.

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