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Michael Greenhalgh
MusicWeb International, May 2012

This is a rip-roaring, don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it Mikado and it’s a lot of fun. Musically it’s very good too. This new version comes with abundant energy and enthusiasm from Brian Castles-Onion and Orchestra Victoria.

The choreography is busy, the props exotic. Characters emerge from large vases, baskets, a cupboard, a tent. In Act I a jet black backcloth brings into relief all the colour before it. As Yum-Yum sings ‘The sun whose rays’ in Act II there’s a fantastic fan with deep blue fringes behind her covering the entire backstage. In sum there’s really no pretence that all this is anything other than make-believe. What about the music? The opening men’s chorus from Opera Australia is lightly and freshly done…

Kanen Breen’s Nanki-Poo for OA is as lyrical as you could wish…

Samuel Dundas’s light, rather dry but clear parlando styled voice suits Pish-Tush well as a foil for the excellent, more mellow Pooh-Bah of Warwick Fyfe who manages to be a likeable rogue, a charlatan who commands respect. You won’t quickly forget his ability literally to wear on top of one another the hats of all the state offices he holds.

Mitchell Butel’s Ko-Ko, undoubtedly a hit with the audience, is another ‘new’ interpretation, considerably more gauche than the well-heeled con-man of Richard Suart for Mackerras. Butel enters brandishing his Executioner’s axe, a clown of a Samurai warrior who is quickly exhausted and desperately reaches for his inhaler. He has, however, mastered that easy, endearing confidentiality with the audience that you’ll forgive him for anything. I enjoyed Butel’s ‘little list’ as executioner, brought bang up to date and increasingly racy. Butel’s courting of Katisha late in Act II and simultaneous revulsion, maintaining as much distance from her as possible, is very funny.

Jacqueline Dark makes a formidable Katisha with extravagant auburn wig and whip.

I preferred Richard Alexander’s Mikado here to the well-known Donald Adams for Mackerras. Alexander is more affable, suave and subtle in his song. His laugh is smiling and then a little more arch, not the wheezy extravagance of Adams in a tradition which in any case only dates from the 1920s. Alexander does permit himself the liberty of dropping an octave at ‘balls!’ but this creates a fitting comic moment. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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