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In a bright and cheerful production the Winthrop House Music Society gives full due to the Mikado's reputation as the most famous of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Because this is such a well known musical, the Winthrop players are in a position like the young orator assigned to give Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty..."--he must be better than good or he will be disappointing. Winthrop's Mikado is better than good.
Like most of Gilbert's plots, the Mikado is filled with strange twists and stranger characters. There is the wandering minstrel who is actually of the royalty, the old maid with an "irresistable right elbow," the axeman who can't stand the thought of head-chopping, and the bureaucrat who fills most every job in town, including officially checking up on his own corruption. This fellow, the Lord High Everything, is the best of the show, delightfully played by Thomas Whitbread. He is perfectly pompous, and his gift of timing makes even mundane lines amusing.
The rest of the leads are generally well handled, especially that of the Grand Mikado (Victor Altshul). He has an impressive voice, and combines a regal loftiness with the eagerness of a village fool. The tendency toward madness is also reflected in the executioner (Ned Marcus), who leaps and leers his way across the stage. Marcus' continual body motion and fast pace tend to be a bit too intense, but he is quite funny, and could be even funnier if he would slow down enough to let all the lines come across. His best moments are with the old maid, played by Diana Frothingham, who uses her convincingly expressive face to good advantage. The romantic leads are played by Paul Cawein as the minstrel, and Marietta Perl as his love interest. Both have clear and pleasantly Iyrical, if not always even, voices. The rest of the cast give more than adequate support, especially Pete Churchill as Pish-Tush.
The production as a whole holds together nicely, and credit must go to director Karl Heider, as well as choreographer Adele Hugo, who has again made the complex chorus patterns seem unrestricted by the small stage. This year the Winthrop Society has made a bigger production of their annual event, especially noticable in the lighting shifts used, generally successfully, for added dramatic effect. But the increased over-all polish makes any rough spots, although not serious, all the more obvious. For example, the chorus' white gym shoes appear out of place in contrast with fine costuming and striking make-up; and the backdrop, ugly rather than unobtrusive, distracts from the clever arrangement of levels for the players to move on.
But these are only minor niches in a smooth and very humorous production. An evening at Winthrop's Mikado is good fun, with only a "punishment of innocent merriment."
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