'Mikado' Makes Up For Lost Time

Canceled Last Season, Operetta's Outstanding

October 15, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

Some things are worth waiting for. And the Annapolis Opera's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" is one of them.

Postponed in the midst of last season's economic crunch, the production cameto life this past weekend at Annapolis High School, and a jolly, polished production it was.

Assuming a requisite amount of musical talent on stage, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are as much matters of style as anything else. When the appropriate sauciness is achieved, a lot of other things pretty much fall into place.

And this Mikado was nothing if not saucy. In the best G&S tradition, this spoof of 19th-century "Japanese Society" became a spirited critique of the banality of politics everywhere. Ko Ko, "The Lord High Executioner," and Poo Bah, "The Lord High Everything Else," even made pointed references to such . . . er . . . "Japanese" issues as budget cuts and redistricting plans. Ah, the timeless spirit of Victorian farce captured by Sir William and Sir Arthur!

Virtually all aspects of the production were worthy of praise.

The leading players, especially men, were terrific.

Michael Begley in his ASO debut dominated this production as the hilarious Ko Ko, whose reluctance to inflict capital punishment gets him into hot water with the emperor, the Mikado.

Begley was all over the stage; cringing, strutting, plotting and cavorting every which way.

His foil, the imperious Poo Bah, was played for all he was worth by RandallWoodfield. "I can't help it. I was born sneering," he says, and his officious snootiness came through loud and clear.

Stephen Stokes and Janet Crisalli were enjoyable as the silly lovers, Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum. Ms. Crisalli's voice is a bit too fluty for my taste, but shehas the Gilbert and Sullivan comic style down pat. Stokes was fine as the heir to the throne who searches for love posing as the wandering musician.

Laura Hewitt was another dominating presence as Katisha, the old harpy rejected by Nanki-Poo who demands satisfaction. Musically and dramatically, she was great fun to watch.

The orchestra,under the direction of Ronald Gretz, sounded polished and alert oncethe tentative overture concluded.

The production looked beautiful. Colorful costumes and umbrellas pleasingly caught the eye and the set with its mountain backdrop, red footbridge, pagoda and Japanese flora and fauna enhanced everything that went on on stage.

One mighthave wished for more facial reactions from the chorus and for a bit more vocal contrast between the Mikado himself and other baritones, but what an enjoyable production this was.

The Annapolis Opera alsocontinues its mission of uncovering important new vocal talent. Frederic Kalt, who played Lieutenant Pinkerton in the company's 1990 production of "Madame Butterfly," recently won a San Francisco Opera vocal competition and is now performing in Germany as a result. The localcompany should feel proud of its alumnus.

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