The Mikado

THE PATRICIAN Musical Society’s 2010 production sees it take on one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s finest pieces, The Mikado. Fittingly it sees the society take on this show during its 125th anniversary since it was first performed in 1885.

Often spoken of as the most popular Gilbert & Sullivan opera and arguably the most popular opera ever written, The Mikado has endlessly delighted audiences right from its very first run.

Opening on March 14 1885, in London’s Savoy Theatre, it ran for 672 performances, which was the second longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time.

By the end of that year, it was estimated that, in Europe and America, at least 150 companies were producing the opera. The Mikado’s popularity has remained undiminished ever since and the show represents Gilbert & Sullivan at the height of their creative genius.

Set in Titipu in Japan, The Mikado is a satire on English society perfectly disguised through the Japanese setting. Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, has been appointed Lord High Executioner and must find someone to execute before the arrival of the ruling mikado.

He lights upon Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel who loves the beautiful Yum-Yum. However Yum-Yum is also loved by Ko-Ko, and Nanki-Poo, seeing no hope for his love, considers suicide.

Ko-Ko offers to solve both their problems by executing Nanki-Poo, and an agreement is reached whereby Ko-Ko will allow Nanki-Poo to marry Yum-Yum for one month, at the end of which Nanki-Poo will be executed, in time for the arrival of the mikado.

What Ko-Ko does not know is that Nanki-Poo is the son of the mikado and has run away to avoid a betrothal to an old harridan named Katisha. The arrival of the mikado brings all the threads of the tale together.

The Mikado features some of opera’s funniest characters including Koko, Pooh-Bah, Pish-Tush and Katisha, while its many memorable songs include ‘The Sun & I’, ‘Tit Willow’, ‘The List Song’, ‘Alone and Yet Alive’, ‘Beauty In The Bellow’ and ‘Three Little Maids’.

A strong cast has been assembled for this PMS production, including Fine Gael councillor Hildegarde Naughton as Yum Yum and James Harris as Koko. Ahead of a Monday evening rehearsal session at the Salthill Hotel, they took some time out to talk about the show.

“It’s great fun,” Harris declares. “There are 40 performers and 14 in the orchestra. One of the unusual things about The Mikado is there are no drums or piano and the instrumentation comprises these lovely strings and brass. The make-up and costumes are also fabulous. I think it will prove to be very popular.”

Harris goes on to talk about the character Koko; “He is one of my favourite characters ever, it’s a really juicy role. We’ve adapted Koko’s ‘List Song’ - which catalogues all the people that should be executed - to the present day and we work in Thierry Henry, Jedward, X-Factor, and so on.

“Koko is the only character who can sort of step out like that and make those kinds of comments. This is my first Gilbert and Sullivan show and even though it’s over 100 years old, the comedy is timeless, it hasn’t dated at all.”

Describing her character, Yum Yum, Hildegarde Naughton observes:

“Yum-Yum is a typical ingenue, she’s kind of ditzy. She’s very posh and snobby but there’s not too much going on upstairs. It’s a funny role. I think you’re always guaranteed with Gilbert & Sullivan that it’ll be a great, fun show.

“It’s a challenging show to perform as well; it can be quite difficult because some of the songs are real tongue twisters. Your diction has to be very precise or you’ll lose the comedy and meaning.”

Does Naughton find that her role as a serving city councillor enhances her appreciation of the show’s political satire?

“It does I think,” she replies. “When you’re involved in politics you can certainly appreciate the satire all the more. I think it’s good for audiences as well to see someone involved in politics able to look at the lighter side of it, though that doesn’t take away from the seriousness of what I’m doing as a councillor!

“Myself and James also did a show recently called Who Killed the Celtic Tiger? where he played Brian Cowen and I was Mary Harney. We need a laugh sometimes when we’re going through difficult situations.”

The PMS’s production of The Mikado will also features Paul Conroy (Nanki-Poo ), Emer Barrett (Katisha ), Declan Kelly (Pooh-Bah ), Katie Creaven (Pitti-Sing ), Emer O’Flaherty (Peep-Bo ), Frances Connelly (Pish Tush ), and Liam Brennan (The Mikado ). The show will be directed by Tim Landers and musical director will be AIM’s-nominated John Roe.

Following last year’s hugely successful production of Calamity Jane which scooped two nominations at the AIMs Awards for the society with James Harris for Best Comedian and Katie Creaven as Supporting Actress, The Mikado promises to be a side-splitting, laugh-a-minute musical for Galway audiences.

The Mikado will be performed at the Town Hall from Tuesday March 9 to Saturday 13. Tickets are on sale now at €15 for Tuesday 9 and €20 for Wednesday to Saturday. Early booking is advisable and can be made at The Town Hall Theatre on 091 - 569777.

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