- April 2008
Triumph for Kentish Opera!
The name Kentish Opera has long been synonymous
with the very highest grade of local operatic entertainment.
But the group's focus has always been on bringing the grand opera
of the likes of Bizet, Verdi and Puccini to the stage, rather
than the comic productions of Gilbert & Sullivan. So, KO
moved out of their comfort zone when choosing to perform The
Mikado at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley between 23 and 26
April 2008. Needless to say, however, this versatile and extremely
talented opera company carried it off splendidly with plenty
of laugh-out-loud moments and a fresh take on the humorous story
of forbidden love in 19th century Japan.
In large part, this success was due to the vision of director
Sally Langford and dance director Terry John Bates, who moved
the action from Victorian times to the 1920s, giving the production
an original feel and allowing for the incorporation of some excellently
choreographed Charleston dance routines.
Langford also managed to
assemble a strong team of soloists, who were able to carry out
the difficult double task of giving strong vocal performances
while getting their comic timing spot on.
Gareth Jones - who sung with the original Gilbert & Sullivan
opera company D'Oyly Carte - was excellent as the self-serving
bureaucrat Pooh-Bah while the flirtatious giggliness of the three
young maids from school
Yum Yum (Nicola Pulford), Pitti-Sing (Amanda Pyke) and Peep-Bo
(Myvanwy Bentall) was infectious and compelling.
Joe Shovelton made the ladies in the front row coo with his Lionel
Blair-esque turn as the wandering musician Nanki-Poo, and Graham
Stone was majestic as the Mikado, looking resplendent in an outfit
which, even by costume designer Carol Stevenson's high standards,
The show stealers, though,
were Louise Crane - who was hilarious as the shunned old hag
Katisha - and Bromley boy Ian Belsey, who played Ko-Ko the Lord
High Executioner as Boy George channelling the spirit of Frankie
The scene in the second act when Ko-Ko must convince Katisha
to switch her affections to him and away from Nanki-Poo was a delight and highlighted
many of KO's qualities. It is one of the only moments of reflection
in an otherwise full-on comedy assault and the change of mood
was executed perfectly by the expert baton of conductor Mark
Fitz-Gerald and the delicate touch of lighting designer Colin
Martin's ability to create the perfect atmosphere was complemented
by Enid Strutt's simple yet flexible set design. It was not as
flamboyant as her work for previous productions but was very
effective, and the Mikado's arrival on stage via a steam-powered
ship was a lovely flourish.
Overall, KO's Mikado was
a fantastic evening of fun and - given the smiles on the chorus
members' faces throughout - it feels as if they enjoy putting
on these shows as much as the audience members love watching
them. Another triumph.