A staging of "The Mikado" set in an English country hotel during the 1920s.

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(operetta) (as William S. Gilbert)
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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Lesley Garrett ...
Bonaventura Bottone ...
Richard Van Allan ...
Felicity Palmer ...
Richard Angas ...
Susan Bullock ...
Ethna Robinson ...
Mark Richardson ...
Findlay Wilson ...
Katisha's Unrequited Lover
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Ensemble
Bret Macey ...
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Storyline

In a mythical Japan, Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, has been appointed Lord High Executioner and must find someone to execute before the arrival of the ruling Mikado. He lights upon Nanki-Poo, a strolling minstrel who loves the beautiful Yum-Yum. But Yum-Yum is also loved by Ko-Ko, and Nanki-Poo, seeing no hope for his love, considers suicide. Ko-Ko offers to solve both their problems by executing Nanki-Poo, and an agreement is reached whereby Ko-Ko will allow Nanki-Poo to marry Yum-Yum for one month, at the end of which Nanki-Poo will be executed, in time for the arrival of the Mikado. But what Ko-Ko doesn't know is that Nanki-Poo is the son of the Mikado and has run away to avoid a betrothal to an old harridan named Katisha. The arrival of the Mikado brings all the threads of the tale together. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Musical | Comedy

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Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado  »

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1.33 : 1
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Connections

Version of The Cool Mikado (1963) See more »

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Its in Japanese
5 October 2010 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

This is the story of a faraway almost-forgotten land. No, not feudal Japan but Britain in1987 when a commercial television company was able to broadcast opera to peak-viewing audiences. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put a stop to all that and, in 1992, Thames received its own short, sharp shock when it lost its franchise.

When I was 12 years old I was a fairy in Iolanthe. Since then my interest in opera has tended towards the more serious end of the spectrum and I have never seen a Gilbert and Sullivan opera live. My knowledge of The Mikado is limited to the excellent, but truncated, 1939 Hollywood version and the execrable 1996 Australian version which is still, sadly, doing the rounds.

We have to be grateful for Sky Arts rediscovery of this English National Opera production, directed by Jonathan Miller, a recording that I did not even know existed. Miller updates the production to the 1920s and there is nothing at all Japanese about the sets or costumes. This may offend a few purists but I found it delightful. It stars Eric Idle as Ko-Ko, bringing his own Little List to the production. His comic timing is wonderful. I particularly enjoyed his licking the Mikado's boot and his exclamation when he has to read the Mikado's decree: "It's in Japanese!" His delivery of Gilbert's dialogue is strangely reminiscent of Monty Python.

Lesley Garrett is Yum-Yum, making clear her star quality at a very early stage in her career. There is a hilarious Pish-Tush from Mark Richardson with an outrageous Yorkshire accent and an even more outrageous orange toupee. Richard Van Allen is a droll Pooh-Bah. Bonaventura Bottone is slightly disappointing as a rather fruity Nanki-Poo. Richard Angas plays the Mikado as a jovial giant turtle in a huge fat suit with his scrawny neck sticking out of an outsize collar. His dancing is a delight, as is the Busby Berkeley style dancing of the ensemble of bellboys, schoolgirls with lacrosse sticks and maids with feather dusters. Finally, I must mention Felicity Palmer's delicious performance as the scheming Katisha, despite being much too attractive to be completely convincing in the role.

The sound quality is not brilliant. It sounds as though you are listening to a performance in your local scout hall. Visually the production is a bit fuzzy but probably state of the art for 1987 with on-stage hand-held cameras and some vignetting which other reviewers have found irritating. This is a triumph for Jonathan Miller but, if he was watching this broadcast last week, I'm sure he would have cringed at the sight of the Gentelemen from Japan making slitty-eyed gestures and karate-chop motions.


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