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Posts Tagged ‘The Mikado’

It’s beginning to look like the Union Theatre’s all-male Gilbert & Sullivan’s are going to become as permanent a feature as Propeller’s all-male Shakespeare’s. This one is the fourth and the best!

The material itself is even more suited to the concept than it’s predecessors The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe. A satire on 19th century aestheticism featuring the rivalry between Grosvenor and Bunthorne for the heart of milkmaid Patience, whilst  a bunch of infatuated Lady’s and maiden’s swoon, pout and sigh, ignoring the attentions of a bunch of dragoons seeking to court and marry them!

Stiofan O’Doherty and Dominic Brewer are perfect as the vain effete aesthetes wrapped up in a world of poetry and beauty. Edward Charles Bernstone is a delight as (s)he moves back and forth between her two suitors. The dragoons are cartoon soldiers, clumsy & naive but lovable, in their tweed jackets, bowler hats, black boots and big belts. The Lady’s Jane, Angela, Saphir and Ella are all brilliantly played by Sean Quigley, James Lacey, Mark Gillon and Matthew Marwick, each a different personality, and the maidens (some doubling up as dragoons) glide along the stage in flower print frocks and cardies, brilliantly choreographed by Drew McOnie.

The musical standards are extraordinary (how do you find that many men who can sing that high?!) and the performances beyond charming. Kingsley Hall’s design is inspired. Even MD Richard Bates, who plays the whole score heroically on a solo piano, dons a frock! I smiled from beginning to end of this faultless production by Sasha Regan – and I’m not even a G&S fan! 

If you like musical theatre and you don’t like this, you’ll need therapy. GO!

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You might think the all-male Gilbert & Sullivan idea might run out of steam after a wonderful Mikado and terrific Pirate of Penzance, but no they’ve come up with another treat with Iolanthe.

In truth, the starting point – book, lyrics and music – aren’t as good, though the silly scenario – fairies meet peers! – thoroughly suits the concept and the frequent references to Tories and Liberals, though not directly referencing coalition, added a delicious contemporary twist. Stewart Charlesworth’s low-budget design ideas are superb – the fairies are dressed in assorted underwear with home-made wings and individual touches like shuttlecocks in the hair and the peers are in dressing gowns with assorted headgear and individual touches like ties. Each group seems to move as if a pack of cute animals sticking together in Mark Smith’s excellent choreography.

I’m not going to single out individual performances as this really is an ensemble piece. Quite how you find 16 men who can sing both falsetto and tenor / baritone is beyond me, but suffice to say the standard of singing is outstanding, five of them ‘with form’ in one or both of the previous two all-male G&S’s. Chris Mundy heroically plays the entire score on an upright piano, adding to the thrown together feel of the whole production.

I’m not sure I got the  point of the business with torches during the overture, it is a bit slow to get going & the first half is a bit long and I felt the campness was pushed just a little too far, but it’s still an irresistible cocktail and a whole lot of fun. Another triumph for director Sasha Regan and another feather in the Union’s now feather-heavy cap!

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