Skylight and Hot Mikado a delicious Japanese dish

The crazy cast of “Hot Mikado at Skylight. PHOTO:MARK FROHNA

Is six months too short a time to see a sendup of the famed Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “The Mikado” twice?

Under normal circumstances the answer might be “yes,” but after seeing the Skylight version of “Mikado” Saturday night the answer is “Hell NO!”

After seeing the Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s hilarious version last March, I was convinced I’d been to the mountaintop of fun and frolic with this timeless story. The production was an absolute riot from beginning to end.

Well the mountaintop has gotten a little crowded because the Skylight production stands just as tall.

As Shirley and Lee wrote way back in 1956, “C’mon Baby Let the Good Times Roll.” That song isn’t in this production, but it could be because good times rolling are what this production is all about.

Under the stage direction of Austene Van, the music direction of J.Michael Duff and the choreography of Garry Q. Lewis, the Ray Jivoff reign at Skylight has gotten off to a rollicking and exciting start.

Everyone knows the story of Ko-Ko, Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo and Poo-Bah and the assorted ladies and gentlemen of Japan who gather for the festivities in the village of Titipu.

Yum-Yum (Rána Roman) is the object of desire for Ko-Ko (Chris Klopatek) and Nanki-Poo (Michael Penick). But the courtship by both men proves to have far more complications than you could imagine.

Included in all of this are beheadings, hangings, lies, cheating, mistaken identities and all sorts of mayhem and love stuff.

This musical by David Bell (book and lyrics) and Rob Bowman (music adaptation) had its first performance over 30 years ago at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. As you may recall that’s where Abraham Lincoln was killed.

There is no killing in the Skylight production, but the show is an absolute killer of a mix of singing and dancing that create a great evening of theater.

The plot of the show follows the tried and true line of poking fun at stuffy politicians and upper crust dwellers. It’s the reason that Gilbert & Sullivan wrote their shows, trying to hide the jabs they were throwing at British society.

This version rises and falls on the backs of the cast and musicians and these people were more than up to the task.

Looking at the group, it’s amazing that on the small stage at the Cabot Theatre, Mr. Lewis was able to create such vast and intricate dances. With 14 actors on the stage, the choreography and musical numbers are an absolute feast for the eyes.

With a variety of costumes designed by  BrianC. Hemesath that capture both mood and spirit of the fantastic blend of music and dance.

Leading the parade is Chris Klopatek who plays Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. Mr. Klopatek has long been one of the most adept comedians in this state. Here he presides over the land with the kind of sly oversight that allows for some priceless moments of comedy.

Early in the show he sings the memorable “I’ve Got a Little List,” his tale of the candidates he has created for execution.

As someday it may happen that
A victim must be found
I’ve got a little list
I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
Who never would be missed
Who never would be missed
There’s devotees of movie stars
Who write for autographs
All people who have flabby hands
And irritating laughs
They’d none of them be missed
I’ve got them on my list
I’ve got them on my list

Mr.Klopatek is part Charlie Chaplin, part Marx brother and part Don  Rickles. He’s an absolute riot. But this is not a one man show. Not by a long shot.

Ryan Cappleman plays Pooh-Bah, the Lord HIgh of Everything Else. He is a serious highlight with his brief impersonation of a number of well-known people, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Godfather, and many more.

Mr. Cappleman is also the Dance Captain in the show and has helped Mr. Lewis take a group of actors and turn them into a group of dancers. The choreography is both challenging and interesting.

Michael Penick plays Nanki-Poo, the poor young man who is Yum Yum’s true love. He is, in truth, the son of The Mikado and he brings a boyish charm to the fore.

Ms. Roman is, as always, a combination of unadorned cuteness with a kind of sultry lounge singer leaving no doubt about why these men are crazy about her.

And then there is Jamecia Bennett, three-time Grammy award winner. The stocky and curvy Ms. Bennett, resplendent in red sequins shows up late in the production, a vamp on the prowl.

She is a striking stage presence and overwhelms the citizens of Titipu. When she sings of the mournful “The Hour of Gladness” it is impossible to look away from this mezzo.

“You think you’re hot, but you will see
You have not got the best of me!
You’ve pissed me off and now you’ll pay
For what  you think is her wedding day.
We’ll hear no more, you angry owl
Our joy will soar, despite your scowl,
The echoes of our festival
Shall Rise Triumphant over all!

Ms.  Bennett brought the house down with her soaring voice and powerful presence on the stage. There is almost nothing that matches a big audience in full throated roar over a memorable performance, and this is one of those moments.

Once the show ended I couldn’t help but wonder who was going to do “Mikado” next. Whoever it is will have a tough time matching the glory of the Skylight version.

“Hot Mikado” runs through October 15 and information of tickets and showtimes is available at http://www.skylightmusictheatre.org

 

About davebegel@gmail.com

Theater Critic in Milwaukee.
This entry was posted in Home. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s