Mikado - April 2008

Another Triumph for Kentish Opera!

The name Kentish Opera has long been synonymous with the very highest grade of local operatic entertainment. But the group's focus has always been on bringing the grand opera of the likes of Bizet, Verdi and Puccini to the stage, rather than the comic productions of Gilbert & Sullivan. So, KO moved out of their comfort zone when choosing to perform The Mikado at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley between 23 and 26 April 2008. Needless to say, however, this versatile and extremely talented opera company carried it off splendidly with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a fresh take on the humorous story of forbidden love in 19th century Japan.

In large part, this success was due to the vision of director Sally Langford and dance director Terry John Bates, who moved the action from Victorian times to the 1920s, giving the production an original feel and allowing for the incorporation of some excellently choreographed Charleston dance routines.

Langford also managed to assemble a strong team of soloists, who were able to carry out the difficult double task of giving strong vocal performances while getting their comic timing spot on.

Gareth Jones - who sung with the original Gilbert & Sullivan opera company D'Oyly Carte - was excellent as the self-serving bureaucrat Pooh-Bah while the flirtatious giggliness of the three
young maids from school Yum Yum (Nicola Pulford), Pitti-Sing (Amanda Pyke) and Peep-Bo (Myvanwy Bentall) was infectious and compelling.

Joe Shovelton made the ladies in the front row coo with his Lionel Blair-esque turn as the wandering musician Nanki-Poo, and Graham Stone was majestic as the Mikado, looking resplendent in an outfit which, even by costume designer Carol Stevenson's high standards, was magnificent.

The show stealers, though, were Louise Crane - who was hilarious as the shunned old hag Katisha - and Bromley boy Ian Belsey, who played Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner as Boy George channelling the spirit of Frankie Howerd.

The scene in the second act when Ko-Ko must convince Katisha to switch her affections to him and away from Nanki-Poo
was a delight and highlighted many of KO's qualities. It is one of the only moments of reflection in an otherwise full-on comedy assault and the change of mood was executed perfectly by the expert baton of conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald and the delicate touch of lighting designer Colin Martin.

Martin's ability to create the perfect atmosphere was complemented by Enid Strutt's simple yet flexible set design. It was not as flamboyant as her work for previous productions but was very effective, and the Mikado's arrival on stage via a steam-powered ship was a lovely flourish.

Overall, KO's Mikado was a fantastic evening of fun and - given the smiles on the chorus members' faces throughout - it feels as if they enjoy putting on these shows as much as the audience members love watching them. Another triumph.


Ally McKay

Dress Rehearsal photos