Richard Conrad's The Mikado at Jordan Hall, November 24, 2007
In the 1980s and ’90s, performances of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas by Richard Conrad’s Boston Academy of Music were a Thanksgiving-weekend tradition. Last Saturday, Conrad was back on a smaller scale, with his new Bostonian Opera and Concert Ensemble in The Mikado at Jordan Hall. There were no sets, and the “Titipu Town Band” orchestra was minimal (I counted 21 members), but it was just as funny, and satisfying, as in the good old days. The band struck up with a BLAT!, whereupon conductor Steven Karidoyanes excused second trombone Jason McStoots, who had snuck into the ensemble in his persona as Nanki-Poo, runaway son of the Mikado posing as an itinerant musician (and not much of a one). The jokes continued fast and furious, from the “Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Nissan, Honda, Yamaha” that greeted the Mikado’s entrance to his appearance in a plaid vest and tam accompanied by Katisha carting a golf bag complete with Tiger Woods tiger-head driver cover. A stagehand carrying off Katisha’s discarded teddy bear struck the Heisman Trophy pose. Told that the Mikado would arrive in 10 minutes, Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko replied, “Not if he’s on the Green Line.”
The cast was stellar: McStoots’s Nanki-Poo light and bluff, but neither lightweight nor bland, and with exemplary enunciation; Maria Ferrante’s Yum-Yum toothsome and less ingénue-like than usual; Martha Evans’s Katisha more beauty and less battle ax than usual, equal parts sweet and hilarious; Philip Lima’s Mikado the sadistic epitome of “let the punishment fit the crime”; Bryan McNeil’s Pooh-Bah the arch epitome of “No bribe, no grovel”; Roberta Janelle’s Pitti-Sing the flirtatious epitome of, well, flirting (though it was Linda Barbieri’s Peep-Bo who snagged the Mikado at the end). The chorus was appropriately deadpan; the band played with spirit and sensitivity. Conrad was Ko-Ko, and if at 72 he doesn’t have much voice left, he was affecting in the slow, quiet “Tit-Willow” (whose prop was a miniature decorated Christmas tree). Ko-Ko’s “little list” included “aging opera singers who resort to G&S . . . ” Deflating as he read this, Conrad paused. “Perhaps they would be missed. I’m sure they would be missed.” Well, this one would be.
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