Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Mikado
Adobe Theater
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Frances' review of Pie and Dean's review of Much Ado About Nothing

Christina Nuki Akerson and Tim MacAlpine
Photo by George A. Williams
What is there left to say about The Mikado? It was exceptionally popular when it premiered in 1885, and it's still exceptionally popular 130 years later. It may well be the most frequently performed musical comedy of all time. Really witty lyrics, really catchy tunes, and a really ridiculous plot (the death penalty for flirting?)—apparently, that's the recipe for success.

Personally, I don't think it's that great, but I seem to be in the minority. It is a lot of fun, though, and the Adobe Theater production is highly enjoyable. The directors, Jane and Cy Hoffman, know their way around Gilbert & Sullivan, having performed in and directed G&S shows for years. With their very good cast and sure pacing, this show is a winner.

The Hoffmans' take is in keeping with what Gilbert himself said about The Mikado: It's not about Japan, it's about Victorian England. So, one step removed, we are watching Americans playing British actors who are playing Japanese characters. There's no attempt at realism, and there shouldn't be. The women in the cast wear DayGlo colored wigs in red, blue, green, orange and purple, with kimonos to match. But everybody's shoes are present-day American—no sandals here. Judy Buehler and Bob Byers came up with the colorful costumes (many of them from the Hoffmans' collection, I hear).

The Hoffmans have attracted several of Albuquerque's best musical theater performers, and some new to me who also contribute fine performances. Tim MacAlpine (Ko-Ko), Warren Asa Wilgus (Pooh-Bah), Bryan Lambe (Pish-Tush), and Hi Tillery (the Mikado) are always good, no matter what the role, and they all do very entertaining work here. Among the folks I haven't seen before, Jack Litherland is an amiable Nanki-Poo, and Madi Frost is marvelously funny as Yum-Yum, with hilarious facial expressions and a lovely voice to boot. The "whoa, where did she come from?" surprise is Christina Nuki Akerson as Katisha. She's too attractive for the role of someone who's supposed to be old and repellent, but she sinks her talons into the part and tears chunks out of the stage (not literally, but she could). Her reactions are spectacularly funny during the "Tit-Willow" song, wonderfully sung by Tim MacAlpine. The rest of the cast is way more than competent.

There is no orchestra, but it's not missed. The music is ably provided by two keyboardists, Angela Nybakke and Gretchen Amstutz, and conducted by Loretta Robinson, a longtime collaborator with the Hoffmans. It's good to hear singing that is not amplified. The lyrics are easier to grasp, and the words are so clever (especially the "I've Got a Little List" number, with updated lyrics) that it would be a shame to miss any of them. The unit set by Roke Muña and Rick Hassi is pretty and all that is needed, since this show is not about spectacle. All in all, it's a delightful show, which is why The Mikado has had such a long life.

Cy and Jane Hoffman conduct a summer program every year for kids called Opera Unlimited, and they present a Gilbert & Sullivan show with a large cast for a short run. It's one of the highlights of the Albuquerque summer. This July it will be Ruddigore, which I'm looking forward to since it's not commonly done and I've never seen it before. Don't miss it. The kids are adorable.

The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan, directed by Jane and Cy Hoffman, is being presented at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth Street NW (a few blocks north of Alameda) in Albuquerque. Through May 14, 2017. Friday and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. Info at Tickets $19 and $22.

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