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The Mikado is the third of three Gilbert and Sullivan operas performed at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, as part of the G&S Festival 2014 (the previous two being The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe).

Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel, arrives in the town of Titipu, Japan, to find the love of his life, Yum-Yum, the ward of Ko-Ko.  Yum-Yum had been engaged to Ko-Ko, but he has been sentenced to death for flirting(!).  However, Nanki-Poo is dismayed to find that not only has Ko-Ko been pardoned, but that he has also been appointed to the post of Lord High Executioner, and the wedding to (a reluctant) Yum-Yum is back on!  Lots of comic twists ensue, providing lots of laughs and glorious music, all leading up to a joyous finale.

Nick Allen, who earlier in the week took on the role of Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, was Nanki-Poo, and he played the role just right, swinging from utter joy at finding the love of his life, to utter despair when he realises that they can’t be together.  Bruce Graham was perfect as Poo-Bah, an inept politician who holds a number of conflicting positions.   John Savournin played Pish-Tush, a noble Lord with great humour, and Simon Butteriss was absolutely brilliant as Ko-Ko, raising both laughs and sympathy from the audience.  Ko-Ko is a cruel and selfish character, but he’s so completely inept at his job that he is hilarious to watch.  Super performances too from Claire Lees as the vain but loveable Yum-Yum, and Sylvia Clarke as Katisha, an elderly lady who believes that she is betrothed to Nanki-Poo.

The songs were all beautifully performed and staged.  I loved Ko-Ko’s song about a list of potential candidates for execution.  This song is often updated for modern performances of The Mikado, and in this production, Ko-Ko sang about a certain Uruguayan footballer with a penchant for biting opposing team-mates and those who voted for UKIP in the recent European elections.

The scenery and costumes were spectacular, and the musical ensemble numbers were fantastic – so imaginatively and cleverly staged.  If you want an evening of comedy and music performed to the highest standards, try and catch the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival on tour.  This is a show not to be missed.

(For more information about this production, or the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival 2014, please click here.)

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Part of the 2014 Gilbert and Sullivan Festival on tour, The Pirates of Penzance is the first of three productions by the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company being performed at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

The story concerns a young man named Frederic, who having reached the age of 21, is released from his apprenticeship as a pirate.  No sooner is he free, than he meets and falls instantly in love with Mabel, the daughter of a Major General, but circumstances conspire to keep Frederic under the employ of the hapless band of pirates, and also to keep him and Mabel apart.

G&S operas are not meant to be taken too seriously, and the great comedy and uplifting music meant that I was smiling and laughing throughout.  Nick Allen was lovely as Frederic, the lovelorn young man who is torn between Mabel and his duty to the pirates.  John Savournin, who also directed, was wonderful as the dashing pirate king, and Richard Gauntlett was simply hilarious as the Major General – his song, I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General was a particular highlight.

Excellent performances too from Bruce Graham as the ineffective Chief of Police, Elinor Moran as Mabel, and Sylvia Clarke as Ruth – Frederic’s former nursemaid and wannabee girlfriend.

The whole cast sang beautifully, whether in solo or group numbers, and the production hit just the right note (no pun intended) – it was funny and satirical, but never just plain stupid.  Fantastic colourful costumes and scenery added to the enjoyable experience.

This was the first G&S play I had ever seen, and I don’t think I could have had a better introduction to their comic operas.  The Festival is touring, and I recommend anyone to catch them while you can.

(For more information about this production, or the 2014 Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, please click here.)

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