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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE MIKADO (article first published : 2003-06-25)

You had to keep looking at the programme to remind yourself of the youth of the principal players in tonight’s presentation of The Mikado in the Playhouse Drama because the level of performance is of an extremely high standard.

The Mikado is presented by the visionary Northcliff High School from Johannesburg on its fifth yearly visit to Durban. Since Chicago, a cast of about 30 youngsters plus a music ensemble head for Durban to present their annual musical in the Playhouse. This offers invaluable experience for those who may be thinking of going into the entertainment industry as a career.

Under the ever-careful and extensive direction of Nick Jourdan, The Mikado rates as one of the finest productions presented by Northcliff. Gilbert and Sullivan’s frothy tale of a bloodthirsty Mikado, a high-ranking official who’s gobbled up most of the portfolios (plus the salaries!), a reprieved criminal who is now the Lord High Executioner and a jilted virago of a woman all make for the kind of amusing satirical send-up of the times that made Gilbert and Sullivan legendary theatrical figures. It’s ironical that the abovementioned characters are just as relevant today in many societies!

Walking – well, galloping off, really – with the acting honours was Jonathan Roxmouth who put in one of the finest and most focused performances I’ve seen in professional musicals for a while. As Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else, who was “born sneering”, he held the attention every second he was on stage. With a style reminiscent of the late British actor and writer Peter Cooke, he showed an aptitude for split-second comedy timing and a competent versatility when taking on the identities of each of his portfolios!

Other notable performances came from Daniel Botha as Ko-Ko and Connell Kingsburgh as Pish-Tush with Stacy Vogel giving us a delicious Pitti-Sing. Kyle Whiteside as Nanki-Poo has a singing voice to watch and while Samantha Cartwright couldn’t always cope with the music, she made up for it all with a perky performance as Yum-Yum. As Katisha, Lindsey Theunissen was imposing and coped well with microphone problems, Alison Bates was endearing as Peep-Bo and Lance le Goff was a suitably manic Mikado.

Nick Jourdan extracted the maximum of humour from his cast and there were some delightfully quirky touches. The set was charming and effective.

On my hobby horse again, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas require impeccable diction as the words play as strong a part as the music. I couldn’t fault anyone’s diction so take a bow, Northcliff! However, I did have a problem with some of the musical phrasing where singers were taking a breath in the middle a word, let alone a sentence!

Performances on June 25, 27 and 28 at 19h30 and on June 29 at 15h00. There are matinees on June 25 and 28 at 14h30, with a special schools morning matinee on June 26 at 10h00. Book at Computicket. Enquiries to 083 744 3754. – Caroline Smart




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