Jonathan Miller’s English National Opera Mikado – which transfers the operetta’s action from Japan to a British grand hotel in the 1930s – has been revived more than 15 times since its first outing in 1986, and it still looks fresh, even if it doesn’t always feel it.
Stefanos Lazaridis’ wood-panelled palm-court set – dazzling in cream with a fountain and grand piano to match – is complemented by Sue Blane’s natty costumes (a world away from her Rocky Horror Picture Show creations). The dance routines involve high-kicking chambermaids and surreal headless men in penguin suits.
In a bold (and presumably financially canny) move, the central couple are cast from ENO’s young talent scheme, Harewood Artists. Both singers deserve the spotlight: Elgan Llŷr Thomas is light and lyrical as the fresh-faced, kiss-curled Nanki-Poo and Soraya Mafi is effortlessly optimistic as Yum-Yum, allowing the voice to soar in The Sun, Whose Rays.
Yvonne Howard is suitably poker-faced as the formidable Katisha (by her own admission, “an acquired taste”), and John Tomlinson celebrates his 50th role at ENO as the over-sized Mikado.
Richard Suart, the veteran Lord High Executioner, remains dependably colourful, returning with his ample toolkit of comic techniques, side-curls flailing and whole-body squirming. His “little list” of potential subjects for execution (those who’ll “not be missed”) now include the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox (the “rotund legalist”) and a certain “blond-haired populist”.
But Pooh-Bah (played by Andrew Shore) needs a little more cut-through and the dialogue could often do with spiriting along. Under Chris Hopkins, the music is solid but lacks sparkle.