A Merry Mikado

Though intoxicated by its own relentless slapstick buffoonery and silly topical allusions to everything from presidential candidates to the made-for-TV miniscandal Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, director Kent Johnson's rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's famous comic opera works—mostly.

English playwright William Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan are renowned for their 14 comic operas, including H.M.S. Pinafore (1878) and The Pirates of Penzance (1879), which rank among the most popular works ever written in this genre. Although the stage at the Chance Theater is small for a musical cast of 19, Johnson nonetheless captures the essence of this lively satire of romance and politics.

Set in feudal Japan, The Mikado is about the efforts of Nanki-Poo (Bradley Miller) to marry his true love, Yum-Yum (Jill DeFritas), who is already promised to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner (Scott Ratner). To accomplish this feat, Nanki-Poo cuts a deal with Ko-Ko, who needs to meet his executions quota: Nanki-Poo agrees to be executed after one month of marriage to Yum-Yum.

This presents a problem when Katisha (Freda Nelson Evans) arrives, looking for Nanki-Poo, whom she is supposed to marry according to the emperor's edict. As the plot unfolds, The Mikado exposes government corruption while it questions the motivations behind marriage.

The satire is realized, but the point of the story is lost amid overused sight gags and the characters' feeble efforts to interact with the audience. Johnson should have trusted his material: let singers sing, skip the wan efforts to engage the audience (through such devices as a mock cast photo with the audience), and let Gilbert and Sullivan entertain another generation of theatergoers.

The Mikado at the Chance Theater, 5576 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through April 2. $10-$15.


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