Next year, Jonathan Miller’s production of the most popular Gilbert & Sullivan opera celebrates its 30th anniversary, while during the current run it will reach its 200th performance. It’s a remarkable achievement for a staging that has kept audiences happy year-in, year-out, and that shows no sign of faltering.
At many of its performances – 156, in fact – long-term company member Richard Angas sang the title role. Sadly, he’s no longer with us and this series of performances is dedicated to his memory. Fortunately, veteran bass Robert Lloyd is around to take over, which he does with distinction, relishing Gilbert’s ghoulish text and singing Sullivan’s famous song My Object All Sublime with a vocal quality matched throughout by the strong cast.
Richard Suart returns with his classic Ko-Ko, which he remodels at every revival. As always, his ‘little list’ of those who would be better underground includes some topical names: this time, all the major party leaders are there, as is Sepp Blatter. He gives a brilliant comic performance.
So does the entire ensemble. Mary Bevan sings a vocally immaculate, dramatically knowing Yum-Yum that would be impossible to better. Anthony Gregory is the dapper Nanki-Poo, entering into the silly-ass characterisation with aplomb and some charm. Yvonne Howard’s Katisha is sung with dignity and pathos as well as offering full comic value.
The cut-class accents gild the satirical lily of Gilbert’s razor-sharp lines unnecessarily, and though young conductor Fergus Macleod – making his debut as the company’s Charles Mackerras Fellow – keeps the score nicely on the move, the overture seems to be cut more and more at every revival.
These are minor cavils. It’s still a great show. Miller comes on at the end and gets a well-deserved ovation. As a piece of classy operatic entertainment, it’s irresistible.