“Are you sufficiently decayed enough” to perform? This was my take on Sullivan’s question after exiting the Fringe’s production of The Mikado. The fate of Gilbert’s dry humor and Sullivan’s musical score depended on who was on stage and how old they were. Yes, this can mean only one thing-children’s theatre-or, perhaps more accurately, parents’ theatre.
The show swung from moments of professional light opera to moments that felt like a children’s pageant (complete with an audience full of very appreciative parents). Sadly, I can’t agree with the program which proclaims that this acting troupe “reflect[s] the high standards and consistent quality of professional adult theatre companies.” Here are a few reasons why:
The G&S Youth players threw this production together quickly (I talked to one of the mothers who said the chorus only practiced for a week). The cramped rehearsal time shows up in forgotten lines, a chorus that looks like they might be lip-syncing some of the time (and not in a good way), half-hearted blocking, and the array of homespun costumes.
There were a few good voices that carried the rest of the cast. The ones that come to mind are Matt Sartucci as Ko-Ko, Adam Pelta-Pauls as Pooh-Bah Jordan Alexander Li as Nanki-Poo, and Shelby Sykes as Katisha. These were probably the oldest people in the cast and there was a noticeable difference in the quality of performance between them and the younger cast members. The girls’ chorus was often flat and inaudible. It seems like the vocal coach Danielle Drobny and the director Pamela Leighton-Bilik just didn’t have enough time to train these kids to sing.
The highlight was probably the performance of Sartucci, who was comfortable with both the music and the comedy of the light opera. He played the Gilbert & Sullivan buffoon expertly. His interaction with Pelta-Pauls, as Lord High Everything Else, provided most of the humor. Vocally, Sykes’ low and fluid voice added some “old school” glory to the second half of the play when she made her appearance as the over-aged betrothed of Nanki-Poo (which in my mind means she could really do the job).
While The Mikado was not professional, it was really, truly enjoyable. I mean, who can resist, a bunch of little girls trying their hardest to sing “Three Little Maids from School are We?” And it got better toward the end: the audience was very supportive and the production gained energy in the second act. Clean, funny and colorful, this is a good production to see if you want to introduce your children to light opera. Even without children, the mixture of professional adult singers and adorable children makes for an evening of innocent fun.
Running Time: 90 minutes
Remaining Shows: The Mikado has closed.