With Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as with very few other kinds of entertainment there is a standard which the production either does or doesn't meet. The D'Oyly Carte Company set the standard at the premiere of each of the works way back in the Nineteenth Century, and it alone holds to the standard. Other companies try to do the operettas every now and then, but at best they are obvious substitutes--the spark is not there.
The D'Oyly Carte, now at the shubert, is performing "The Mikado" with all the polish and humor that the operetta needs. Martyn Green, who is one of the funniest men around in any company, climbs up the scenery and mugs furiously, but he hardly ever steps outside his role in the play, that of the Lord High Executioner. Darrell Fancourt, as the humane Mikado of the story, leers competently at his unfortunate subjects and utters the most grotesque chuckles that have been heard in Boston since he was last here nine years ago. The romantic leads are taken by Thomas Round and Margaret Mitchell, both of whom have pleasant voices as well as a lingering consciousness of the foolishness of the whole business.
"The Mikado," which was first produced in 1885, supposedly is set in Japan, but there can be no doubt that the town of titipu is located somewhere in England. Gilbert and Sullivan owned much of their popularity to their ability to give their audiences friendly but accurate digs in the ribs, and "The Mikado" is the most popular because the satire applies to more people than in the other operas. Other G & S works have more credible plots and more consistently good lyries, but "The Mikado," with no conspicuous weaknesses, is primarily a good show. The acting, the sets, and the orchestra, with impeccable English good taste, fit themselves to the tone of the production, a necessary condition for Gilbert and Sullivan.