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The Mikado review at Richmond Theatre – ‘memorable individual performances’

David McKechnie as Ko-Ko and Alex Weatherhill as Katisha in The Mikado. Photo: Stewart McPherson David McKechnie as Ko-Ko and Alex Weatherhill as Katisha in The Mikado. Photo: Stewart McPherson
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Sasha Regan’s all-male Gilbert & Sullivan productions are becoming a theatrical institution in their own right. For their success they depend on solid vocal standards not only from the men singing men’s roles, but also from the men singing women’s roles.

Developing and maintaining focused falsetto throughout Sullivan’s entire soprano and contralto roles is no mean achievement. Here, Alan Richardson’s blissfully self-regarding Yum-Yum and Alex Weatherhill’s Katisha – who brings the character some crucial emotional grandeur and pathos amid the lacerating self-mockery – certainly deliver the goods, but all the female roles are done to a standard that never tips towards the upmarket drag act.

It was GK Chesterton who first observed that The Mikado is set in a purely notional Japan which barely disguises a broad satire at the expense of the English – though it is hard to get a handle on Regan’s relocation of the piece to some sort of 1950s Enid Blyton-esque woodland school camp.

An opening dance sequence choreographed to a rejigged overture and a pointless epilogue are the evening’s weakest sections. That so much of the rest does the trick is partly due to the material’s indestructibility, but there’s also a definite gain in momentum that lifts the second act from the tepid level of the first. One or two endless ‘comic’ pauses, though, are as yet unearned.

There are several memorable individual performances, including Richard Munday’s likeably fatuous Nanki-Poo, James Waud’s authoritatively ghoulish Mikado and especially David McKechnie’s fluent Ko-Ko, who hurls himself gleefully into the manic mayhem of the cheap-tailor-turned-Lord High Executioner.

Some tightening up is in order, and Sullivan would have insisted on purer sung vowels, but musical director Richard Baker does heroic work at the keyboard.

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Verdict
Set on a 1950s school camping trip, Sasha Regan’s production gathers momentum as it rolls along
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