The Collegiate Chorale offered a starry and exceptionally well-sung concert staging of The Mikado at Carnegie Hall on April 10 under the direction and baton of Ted Sperling. This marked my first time seeing the classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, though I am familiar with some of the more famous songs (and am a fan of Mike Leigh’s essential Topsy-Turvy, which details the fascinating gestation of the original production).
The Mikado is set in Japan, but in reality the characters and situations are a direct send up of mid 19th century England. The silliness of the show, its delightfully flippant point of view on death and execution and farce make for a pleasant evening. The concert staging doesn’t lend itself well to the comic nature of the libretto, so the opening was a bit slow. But after a bit, everything clicked and the audience was treated to an engaging comic romp.
Kelli O’Hara and Jason Danieley were in top form as Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo. O’Hara held the audience rapt with her gorgeous rendition of “The Sun Whose Rays” Chuck Cooper was a well-sung Mikado, while Steve Rosen added some laughs as “Pish-Tush.” Jonathan Freeman was delightfully droll as Poo-Bah. Amy Justman and Lauren Worsham added stellar support, especially when they joined O’Hara for a spirited rendition of the famous “Three Little Girls.”
However, the evening belonged to Christoper Fitzgerald and Victoria Clark. As Koko and Katisha, they all but leveled the house with the climactic “There is Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast,” capping off an evening of mass hysteria from the two actors. Fitzgerald sang an updated version of the famed “A Little List, with references to tweeting, Kardashians and Newt Gingrich. This ruffled the feathers of a few purists who grumbled about it during intermission (and incidentally were also added to the list), but in spite of their misery, it was highly entertaining. He later scored major laughs with “Tit-Willow.” Clark entered like a harridan, with garish makeup, tussled hair held back from her eyes with chopsticks, and walked away with the show in her pocket. Her entrance was such a surprising contrast to the stately concert attire, she stopped the show before she even opened her mouth. Then she opened her mouth and proceeded to steal every single scene she was in.
The only unfortunate aspect of the night: that the Collegiate Chorale didn’t record this wonderful concert, with its illustrious chorus. It deserves to be heard again.