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The 'Not' Mikado

The Gilbert and Sullivan Newsletter Archive

GILBERTIAN GOSSIP

No 45 Autumn 1997 Edited by Michael Walters

THE NOT MIKADO

The following review from The Michigan Daily of Monday, 4 April 1994, was kindly sent by Ralph MacPhail.

Zesty "Not Mikado" butchers pop culture, by Robert Yoon.

With the glamour of a rock concert and the glitz of a Las Vegas revue, the Birmingham Theatre presented Saturday night "The Not Mikado: A Hip-Hopperetta", a satirical and very funny musical loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan's 1885 opera, "The Mikado". Conceived and directed by Worth Gardner, "The Not Mikado" provided zesty commentary on the complexity and absurdity of today's pop culture. It was very similar to the original "Mikado" in that both were stage productions performed by carbon-based life forms. The similarities generally ended there. Gardner took the original Gilbert and Sullivan storyline and infused it with more pop culture references than you'll find in both "Wayne's World" movies and a week's worth of "Entertainment Tonight". The setting was still Titipu, Japan, where the emperor - the Mikado - made flirting a crime punishable by death, but the characters, the sassy dialogue, and the variety of musical styles, ranging from country-western to calypso, had a distinctly '90s feel. The story centered on Nanki-Poo (David Gunderman), a leather-clad, punk-rockin', Paulie Shore clone on roller blades. Complications arose, however, when his love interest, Yum-Yum (Courtenay Collins), became slated to be married to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner (Kurt Johns). One of the musical highlights from Act 1 as "Behold the Lord High Executioner," where Ko-Ko sings merrily about the people he'd like to whack. Included in his list are Snoop Doggy Dog, Howard Stern, drama critics and Barney. As a Responsible Drama Critic, I have to say that it is a sad, sad day when actors must resort to making jokes about decapitating loveable, purple dinosaurs for a few cheap yucks. As a product of '70s and '80s popular culture, however, I say bring on the cleaver.

"The Not Mikado" could have succeeded on the quality of the dialogue and the lively dance numbers alone, but what made this a memorable show was the strong performances by the nine cast members. Particularly noteworthy were Kurt Johns, as the malaprop-prone Ko-Ko, whose New York accent was a mixture of a young Marlon Brando and a cranky Archie Bunker, and Howard Kaye, as the excessively stuffy Poo[h]-Bah. Equally entertaining but under-used were Wendy Perelman and Rececca Hirsch, as the mall-talking duo, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Not only did they take time out at the beginning of Act II to recap the events of Act I, but they also gave a complete update of Andrea's wedding on "90210", in case any of you missed that episode. Eduardo Sicangco's costume designs were the perfect mix of feudal Japan and Cindy Crawford's "House of Style". The street-talking, crotch-grabbing, CD-clad Mikado (David Earl Hart) wore 10-inch platform shoes and had a hairdo that would make Patti Labelle sit up and take notice. No description of the "Not Mikado" could top that of Pitti-Sing's at the end of the second act. "It's like when you go to the orthodontist and get your braces off and run your tongue across your teeth for the first time. Mmmm!"

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