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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Potomac Theatre Company The Mikado

By • Nov 23rd, 2010 • Category: Reviews
The Mikado
Potomac Theatre Company
Blair Family Center for the Arts, Potomac, MD
Through November 28th
2:45 with one intermission
$20/$18 Kids and Seniors
Reviewed November 20th, 2010

Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado is a farcical tale of unrequited love, romance, and lots of social commentary on the time. The story follows Nanky-Poo, the prince of Japan disguised as a traveling musician. He has fallen in love with Yum-Yum, the ward of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. Through a series of ludicrously contrived circumstances Ko-Ko consents to allow Nanky-Poo to marry Yum-Yum for a month on the condition that Nanky-Poo will allow himself to be beheaded at the end of his thirty days.

Director Guillarme Tourniaire’s interpretation of this classic musical is nice, but leaves something to be desired. The cast seemed to have fun and they kept up a good pace. But the show lacked the cohesiveness and polish that would have made this a really great show.

The visuals all lent an Asian feel to the show. All of the costumes had many layers and gave the overall impression of Japanese kimono, complete with belts and sashes, but by no means authentic. The ladies’ wigs were very hodge-podge; some of them looked very nice while others looked ratty. The set looked like something out of a Japanese garden — minimal, but beautiful?and included two rotating rice-paper flats. The set was wonderfully crafted and was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the show.

The choreography and blocking for this show was mostly very poor. I am unsure whether it is due to the simplicity of the movements that I was under awed or due to their bad execution despite being so simple.

Musically, this production was well-directed, but lacked in blending. A string and a woodwind were consistently out of tune with the rest of the orchestra. And the vast majority of the vocal talent was cast in named roles, which left slim pickings for the ensemble. Most vocalists, named role or not, were distinctly flat at one time or another.

Nanky-Poo (Joshua Rosenblum) was very charming in an adorable puppy sort of way. The character definitely lacked inner strength, adopting more of his identity from being a traveling musician than from being the son of the Mikado. This interpretation gave the entire show the consistency of marshmallow fluff.

Yum-Yum (Hillary LaBonte) was a lovely young woman, perfectly flighty and self-centered. She surprisingly provided a stronger character than Nanky-Poo. Her vocals were clear and strong, though her solo about “the sun” was difficult to interpret due to a lack of articulation of consonants.

Ko-Ko (John Perine) was more than sufficiently funny. One of the most dynamically portrayed characters in the show, he followed a comic descent from pompous to pathetic. Perine acted with his whole body and used fabulous inflection to bring his character to life.

Katisha (Jennifer Rutherford), the elderly woman in love with Nanky-Poo, was exceptionally funny. Her character was dynamic and commanded the stage at every turn, even through superbly-executed solos. She provided a fabulous counter point to Perine’s Ko-Ko and played up many of the play’s more amusing moments.

The Potomac Theater Company’s production of The Mikado is a sweet introduction to the musical. The pacing is good and the cast seems to have a lot of fun. If you are looking for a silly show, this is the one for you. Just be aware that you should like musicals, because this one goes on for a while.

Director’s Note

The setting of The Mikado has been acknowledged as not being wholly Japan, but rather a reflection of Victorian England in a sort of Japanese mirror. Still, it borrows copiously from Japanese culture in order to create a palpable facsimile of that world, presented on a sort of self-conscious and self-referential state. From the opening lines, “If you want to know who we are, we are gentlemen of Japan,” the Mikado possesses tinges of a pageant. It is not intended as a pastiche of the Japanese, but rather a spoof of ourselves.

For centuries, Japanese culture flourished in a near-vacuum of xenophobic isolationism, developing an intricate structure quite different from that of the western world. For all their commonalities in points of custom, manner and honor, oriental and occidental couldn’t e more opposed. It was a topsy-turvy reversal indeed when Japan threw open its doors in the 1860s, setting about to catch up to the rest of the world, modernizing at such a pitch that their sense of identity went all a-whirl. Our Japan is that of the delicate days before their reinvention, when perhaps a window was open on the world, but not yet a door.

By placing the setting in the exotically safe remove of what we perceive to be Japanese, we are able to turn the finger inward to poke fun at ourselves, at our own expense. Accordingly, you will hear a few modern references slipped in here ant there, in the same vein as in Gilbert & Sullivan’s day. You may even recognize a character or two – even without the help of updating – from the news media or cable TV. Simply do bear in mind that it’s all meant in good fun, so as Pish-Tush advises: “let’s thoroughly enjoy ourselves.”

Cast

  • Chorus of Men: David Berkenbilt, Thomas Copas, Rand Huntzinger, John Sproston, Ed Vilade
  • Nanki-Poo: Joshua Rosenblum
  • Pish-Tush: Vin Kelly
  • Pooh-Bah: Blair Eig
  • Ko-Ko: John Perine
  • Chorus of Girls: Peggy Dennis, Tuyet Gunter, Christine Mears, Lynn Ritland, Tasneem Robinson, Cameron Tabucchi, Juliette Tostain, Tricia Weiler, Lydia Whitehead
  • Yum-Yum: Hillary LaBonte
  • Peep-Bo: Toby Nelson
  • Pitti-Sing: Katherine Latham
  • Katisha: Jennifer Rutherford
  • The Mikado of Japan: David Birkenbilt

Orchestra

  • Conductor: Joseph Sorge
  • Violin 1 (Concert Master): Steve Natrella
  • Violin 1: Audrey Maxwell, Christine Anderson
  • Violin 2: Marion Richter, Sharon Barnartt
  • Viola: Amanda Laudwein, Matt Kupferman
  • Cello: Tom Zebovitz, Michael Stein
  • Bass: Pete Gallanis, Bill Bentgen
  • Flute: Jackie Miller, Louise Hill
  • Oboe: Gwen Earle, Mary Haaser
  • Clarinet: Jim Bensinger, Laura Langbein, Laura Bornhoeft
  • Bassoon: John Hoven, Steve Rennings, Paul Chasse
  • Horn: Adam Watson, Michael Fantus
  • Trumpet: Les Elkins, Curt Anstine
  • Trombone: Steve Ward, Frank Eliot
  • Percussion: Janet Thompson, George Huttlin

Production Team

  • Director: Guillarme Tourniaire
  • Music Director: Joseph Sorge
  • Choreographer: Melanie Barber
  • Assistant Director: Madeleine Smith
  • Producer: Barry Hoffman
  • Production Stage Manager: Tammi T. Gardner
  • Scenic Design: Joseph Wallen
  • Lighting Design: Steve Deming
  • Sound Consultant: Savid Steigerwald
  • Costume Designer: Marietta Greene
  • Hair & Make-up Mistress: Renee Silverstone
  • Assistant Hair & Make-up: Margie Perine, Alice Drew
  • Props & Set-dressing: Sonya Okin
  • Rehearsal Pianist/Vocal Coach: Nan Muntzing
  • Light Operator: Steve Deming
  • Sound Operator: Jeff Kellum
  • Tech Crew: Jennifer Gorman
  • Set Construction Supervisor: John Buckley
  • Set Construction: Alan Beck, Robert Broughman, Elie Cain, Steve Deming, Joseph Wallen, Martin Flaum, Rick & Melanie Williams

Disclaimer: Potomac Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

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