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Writer:
William S. Gilbert (operetta)
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Plot:
A staging of "The Mikado" set in a Japanese seaside resort during the 1920s. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Sullivan & Gilbert's best opera gets a masterful offbeat presentation. See more (8 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)

Eric Idle ... Ko-Ko
Lesley Garrett ... Yum-Yum
Bonaventura Bottone ... Nanki-Poo
Richard Van Allan ... Pooh-Bah
Felicity Palmer ... Katisha
Richard Angas ... The Mikado of Japan
Susan Bullock ... Peep-Bo
Ethna Robinson ... Pitti-Sing
Mark Richardson ... Pish-Tush
Findlay Wilson ... Katisha's Unrequited Lover
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Kevan Allen ... Ensemble
Bret Macey ... Chorus
Marian Martin ... Chorister (uncredited)

Directed by
John Michael Phillips 
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
William S. Gilbert  operetta

Produced by
John Michael Phillips .... producer
 
Other crew
Jonathan Miller .... stage director
 

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1.33 : 1 See more »
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Movie Connections:
Version of The Mikado (1987/II) (TV)See more »

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful.
Sullivan & Gilbert's best opera gets a masterful offbeat presentation., 9 November 2006
Author: catuus from United States

There are times I am convinced that The Mikado is the best Sullivan & Gilbert opera ever, but that is only so long as I'm not listening to Iolanthe. Be that as it may, The Mikado is probably the most frequently filmed of the Savoy Operas. (Yes, I put the composer first. Nobody says Hammerstein and Rodgers, or Hart and Rodgers, or Boito and Verdi, or What's-His-Face and Strauss. You don't even hear the names of librettists for Offenbach, Suppe, or Balfe. Gilbert was just the bigger name (and the bigger ego) at the time, so they put his name first. It's time that silly practice was put to rest.

Anyway, The Mikado is a compleat S&G operetta. It has some of Sullivan's catchiest numbers, combined with some of Gilbert's cleverest lyrics. It has an interesting book and sprightly dialogue. It's got a wonderful degree of craziness. And it leaves the door wide open for elaborate and whimsical costuming.

This particular production, filmed in a live performance in 1990, turns its imagination toward striking simplicity. Set in a British seaside resort toward the end of the Art Nouveau period, it throws over the japonerie of the original entirely. The result is costuming and setting in an eye-caressing medley of whites, grey, and blacks, accented by occasional bits of red (and less frequent uses of yellow and green). It takes some getting used to, but it's really spiffy. Of course, when the chorus tells you they are gentlemen of Japan, you would be right to exclaim, "Oh, pooh. Bah!" (Did I just say that?) It's most gratifying that this fine production is now on DVD. However, one caveat: the print seems to be photographed through a glass of imperfect clarity, so that the expected sharpness of the image is softened and ever so slightly fuzzy. The tendency to superimpose images is, alas, annoying. Why do people who are doing a really spiffy production want to muck it up with artsy-fartsy stuff of that sort? But it's the performance that counts the most. We may skip the overture, since although one is performed, Sullivan never wrote one. (True, it may be so he wrote none for any of the Savoys. But the Mikado overture doesn't even date from Sullivan's lifetime and was compiled by observing the techniques used in the others.) As for the rest of the operetta, it's first-rate and supremely funny.

The Ko-Ko here is the estimable Eric Idle, who does it credit. There is a tradition of bringing a Big Name into the role. The was a U.S. TV production years ago in which Ko-Ko was played by Groucho Marx with mixed results. Idle's performance is delightfully quirky ... he does "Taken from a county jail" assisted by a tennis racquet. His "I've Got a Little List" is done as a speech to a microphone -- of course it has the usual updated lyrics, which are much funnier than the usual run of such things, and his delivery is positively hysterical. It goes on that way throughout.

In this operetta, it's important to have a good Katisha; it's just no fun if you're not being bellowed at in style. This Mikado has a fabulous Katisha in Felicity Palmer, in her way almost as Big a Name as Idle. She bellows with the best of them in a wonderful rich contralto ... wonderful, especially, for a soprano. And her costume...!!! (Not to mention her recital with Franz Liszt, apparently, accompanying.) Nanki-Poo is played by Bonaventura Bottone. I have trouble getting around is somewhat un-Nanki-Pooish chubby shortness -- but is voice is undeniably a solid, rich addition to the vocal palette. There is a nice touch during "A Wand'ring Minstrel", where the chorus reacts with distaste to the mention of "his nancy on his knee" -- bear in mind the Mikado's decree about flirting. Be that as it may, Bottone is a fine singing actor and if his appearance doesn't put the best face on Nanki-Poo, his performance does.

Yum-Yum (Lesley Garett) and her friends are appropriately pretty and silly. She and Bottone do lovely duets. Pish-Tush (Mark Richardson) plays his persona as something a blageur and does it very well. Poo Bah (Richard Van Allan) is wonderful as a stuffed shirt out of water ... a role later done to death in American sitcoms (you know: haughty butlers forced to cater to bratty children -- that sort of thing). The Mikado (Richard Angas) is bloody marvelous, with an imperious voice at absolute variance with his ridiculous lyrics.

I don't recommend you get this as your only Mikado. Get a good traditional production as well, so you can see what Gilbert intended (more or less) in terms of staging. That being said, I'll watch this one twice while viewing any traditional bit once. On the whole this is a terrific offering, a vocal and visual delight, with delicious over-acting. It's a DVD to treasure, with dervish-like maids, tap-dancing bellhops, and all. Watch for the bellhops with signs.

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