Musicals at Richter

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The Mikado

Critic's Review:

Witty, pretty, playful `Mikado' in the park

Maressa Gershowitz, The News - Times

Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados will be pleased with ``The Mikado'' at Musicals at Richter in Danbury; it's eye-catchingly designed and boasts strong vocal talent in most of the major roles.

Theatergoers familiar with Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo, Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah will be rewarded anew with their outrageous romantic schemes, set to Sullivan's lilting, precisely constructed music. The combination has been a theatrical treasure for more than 100 years.

Tom Cochrane, doing double duty as director and set designer, has imagined a stately Oriental courtyard that blends nicely with the real-life gardens of Richter Park _ there's even a bubbling waterfall onstage. The two dozen players have been dressed by Yvette Beausoleil in costumes of shimmering watercolor pastels.

``The Mikado,'' subtitled ``The Town of Titipu,'' is among the most popular of the 13 Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. While their works are favorites with audiences of all ages, those who appreciate Gilbert's witty patter songs and intelligent lyrics will be most rewarded. Younger audiences will get a kick out of the horseplay and broad, often silly, characters.

The rather complicated story, set in Japan a century ago, is one of mistaken identities and thwarted love. Nanki-Poo, resoundingly sung by Bret Poulter, is the son of the Mikado, the emperor of Japan. Traveling in disguise, he looks for Yum-Yum (Sybil Haggard), a maiden with whom he fell in love at first sight.

Unfortunately, she is promised to Ko-Ko (Scott R. Brill), an insignificant tailor. When Ko-Ko is imprisoned for the crime of flirting, Nanki-Poo returns to the town of Titipu to pursue his love.

Reunited, Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum then find their happiness threatened when Ko-Ko is freed and given the surprising position of Lord High Executioner. He intrigues to win Yum-Yum back with the help of Pooh-Bah (Gary Shell) _ Lord High ``Everything Else'' and the quintessential flimflam man.

Their conniving spins the plot into some funny business about beheading, following the Mikado's edict that an example of capital punishment is long overdue in Titipu. On the surface, this ruler appears to be rather coldblooded, but David Dressler finds fun in the part and his Mikado is more amusing than alarming.

More forbidding is Katisha (Priscilla Squiers), an aging but determinedly amorous lady of the court who has claimed Nanki-Poo for her own. With painted lips that proceed her body by a foot, she swerves dangerously across the stage like an out-of-control rickshaw and steals the show.

In addition to Poulter's consistently persuasive work, Haggard's sweetly sung Yum-Yum is a stand out. Other commendable vocal contributions include those of Karen Weaver as Pitti-Sing and Nicolle Sanders as Peep-Bo. They team with Haggard in one of the show's most memorable numbers, ``Three Little Maids from School Are We.''

Cochrane has directed the sizable production with considerable flair. Thursday's preview was a little rough around the edges _ dress rehearsal had been rained out _ but things should be smoothed out for subsequent performances.

Except for the occasional lag in the pacing, ``The Mikado'' is enjoyable summer fare. ``The Mikado'' continues through July 13 at Musicals at Richter, Richter Park, 100 Aunt Hack Road, Danbury. Performances are Fridays through Sundays at 8:30 p.m., with the park opening at 7:15 for picnics. Tickets are $14, $12 for seniors, $10 for students and children. Call 748-MUSE.


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