The following is the public section of the show critique for our production of Hot Mikado, by AIMS Adjudicator, Michael O'Donoghue:
As well as being musical comedies, the G&S operettas were highly subversive and satirical in their time. No sacred cow of the Victorian era was inured to the Gilbertian barb...not even queen Victoria herself (ref. Iolanthe). The lyrics have lost their cutting edge for many of today's audiences and are almost incomprehensible to the text-messaging devotees. Yet G&S musicals are performed right around the world in many languages with many adaptations; none more so than the much recycled Mikado! We have had the Swing Mikado; the original Hot Mikado; the Black Mikado-the Cool Mikado etc. Then we had Jonathan Miller's transposition of the Mikado to a gleaming-white palm-court mileau, with Busby Berkeley-style dance routines and English toffs pretending (not very convincingly) to be Japanese!
This latest Hot Mikado has completely new arrangements to the well known melodies. In fact the music of Arthur Sullivan is remorselessly thrashed and savaged to accommodate an eclectic mix of musical genres...from hot gospel to rock. And though a traditionalist I have much admiration for the Rob Bowman arrangements... and the lyrics remain relatively unscathed! What we have is G&S on Red Bull...which is why the Riverisland Nite Club in Castlerea was such an apposite setting!
Mary McDonagh gave us frenetic pace all through. We had some nice touches e.g. a hapless Katisha thumbing to "Tokyo". Substitute M.D. Ivan McKenna and his 6 piece were well up to the challenging scoring. We had a nicely percussive overture and an Entracte of great gusto and elan. In "The Drums Will Crash" we had notable input (not another pun!) from the double-bass while "Alone and Yet Alive" was concluded with soaring brass. "Beauty In The Bellow" had bright dynamic contrasts and effects. In the unavoidable absence of M.D. Niamh Crowley, Ivan was "Lord High Substitute" indeed! Martina Hawthorne had the tight ensemble on their vocal mettle. Despite a lot of movement the "Gentlemen" and girls projected well to the front. The finales of both acts were vocally and visually impactive.
As fugitive heir to the throne of Japan, Gerry Miley had a nice empathy with the name-candy Yum -Yum as exemplified by the delightfully tongue-in-cheek (not literally!) "What I'll Never Do" and worked well with the chorus of "Gentlemen" at the start. Yum-Yum (Lynda Morgan) showed a nice faux-naif touch with Nanki-Poo. Her's is a fine, agile voice which was tested in the taxing "Sun and I". It was a bit stretched on top, perhaps, but had a lovely ductile quality on the lower and middle registers. Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner, benefited from nice underplaying by Jim Davey. The not-so "Little List" was well delivered while "Tit Willow" was delightfully seductive with a salacious, lingering emphasis on the first syllable!
Pooh-Bah (Niall Heaney) has a fine baritone timbre and his diction would have done justice to Rutland Barrington, Gilbert's original choice. Overall, a fine portrayal of this most pliable, "Yes, Minister"-ish type. Pish Tush (Daniel Doherty) looked the "coolest" gent in Titipu and swung his part in the "Merry Madrigal...." and what a slinky mover! As Pitti-Sing, Angela McGuire was most supportive of her sister Yum-Yum with very flexible, expressive vocals and a soaring range. She and Peep-Bo (Michelle Donnellan) were enjoyably engaging actresses and the "Three Little Maids" saw the Andrews Sisters-ish close harmonies well realised.
Caroline Madigan's Katisha was a leather-clad, Hell's Angels dominatrix type from hell. Her "Hour Of Gladness" was a nice bit of self-indulgent ululation from a voice with a cabaret-esque smokey, lived-in quality. Her hideous cackle masquerading as a laugh underlined her deliciously ruthless and bloodthirsty disposition. David Cooke was a laid-back, self effacing yet zany Mikado...the big "Cat" of Japan. This is a good mover but the words of his solo were a bit smudged and lacked the requisite clarity.
Mary McDonagh's choreography was bright and breezy and she was fortunate to have a tight ensemble with the agility and ability to realise her routines. Both finales were exciting and visually impactive. This ubiquitous set was strangely at home in the nite club setting and had fine oriental detail and furnishings. Liked the round orb which could accommodate sun/moon illumination and definition. The lighting was supportive overall but some of the gel/filter colours were too strong and did deaden facial expression. The finales would have benefited from more dynamic effects. Stage management was smooth and unobtrusive...a doddle! The sound was excellent and good balances were achieved throughout. We had a nice assemblage of 1940's American and Japanese costumes. I liked the colourful toot suits but colourful spats would have been complementary. The girls charcoal/pink satiny attires looked eastern if not necessarily Japanese; snoods to secure the hair would have completed the look and linked the two genres. We had some nice character defining costumes e.g. Ko-Ko and Katisha.
Well, the Mikado is a great survivor....the Grand Old Dame of the Theatre, who has had more face-lifts (or body drops, if you prefer) than a Beverly Hills divorcee laden down with alimony! But....when I saw her in Castlerea in her latest makeover...a galvanised Geisha if you will...she was still turning heads and eliciting catcalls of appreciation from a new set of grateful admirers!