W S Gilbert & Sir Arthur Sullivan
Opera della Luna
Theatre Royal, Winchester, and touring
The inimitable charm of Gilbert & Sullivan has been in full flow at Winchester's Theatre Royal, thanks to Opera della Luna and Jeff Clarke's spirited production of the evergreen The Mikado.
The production, we are told, follows requests by many of the theatres on the company's regular visiting list after their recent performances of The Parson's Pirates and The Ghosts of Ruddigore
The puzzle of how to avoid a poor relation when limited resources ruled out the traditional "kimono" account was solved by a visit to the Versace Exhibition in New York!
Full marks then to designer Gabriella Casanyi-Wills and her team for avoiding also imitation of the Versace-Lacroix-Gaultier, opting instead for an object lesson in how to wear old clothes nicely. They also remembered that Ko-ko, before he became executioner, had been a tailor.
Nothing old however about the band (Gilbert's word for them), an excellent septet with the artistic director at the keyboards.
It follows from all this that the very well-schooled soloists were also the chorus, though where they get all the energy from is a matter of wonder. Especially since Louise Crane, alias Katisha, was on the cusp of a throat ailment. Happily for the company and for us, Louise Crane, recently principal contralto with D'Oyly Carte at the Savoy (and there's a title rarely encountered nowadays) was in better voice than we had a right to expect, being especially fine in the soulful Hearts do not break.
Yum Yum, in shorter skirt than we usually see at the Savoy, is pertly sung by American soprano Pamela Hay with Andrew Thwaite in good voice as Nanki-Poo.
Simon Butteriss, veteran of the operatic stage in Paris, Hamburg and Milan in addition to his numerous Savoy opera appearances, was an amiable, energetic Ko-ko and, in the five times encored Here's a how-de-do, was seen, to general audience merriment, clipping a large hedge in company with a beady-eyed macaw.
In such company, however, it would be less than justice to overlook any of these performances - Abigail Iveson (Pitti-Sing), David Woloszko (Pooh Bah) and Ian Belsey, doubling the roles of Pish-Tush and The Mikado himself.
Adding to the general fun, following the example set by Gilbert's original performances, were many topical references embracing departed pensions ministers, Northern Rock and loans to politicians.
A generous Saturday afternoon house which included many children, demanded three curtain calls and was clearly set to remain for more.
Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole