Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hot Mikado" till 22 May and "The Rat Pack is Back"**** till 9 June

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Carl A. Rossi

Now that the theatre season is drawing to a close, New Repertory Theatre’s HOT MIKADO and Stoneham Theatre’s THE RAT PACK IS BACK offer pleasant transitions between Spring and Summer-Stock.

"HOT MIKADO"

based on “The Mikado” by W. S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

book and lyrics adapted by David H. Bell

music adapted and arranged by Rob Bowman

directed by Kate Warner

musical direction by Todd C. Gordon

choreographed by Kelli Edwards

The Mikado of Japan … Kennedy Reilly-Pugh
Nanki-Poo, his Son, disguised as a minstrel and in love with Yum-Yum … Cheo Bourne
Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of Titipu … Calvin Braxton
Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else … Edward M. Barker
Pish-Tush, a Noble Lord … Jordan Ahnquist
Yum-Yum, a Ward of Ko-Ko … McCaela Donovan
Pitti-Sing, sister to Yum-Yum and Ward of Ko-Ko … Aimee Doherty
Peep-Bo, sister to Yum-Yum and Ward of Ko-Ko … Michele A. DeLuca
Katisha, an elderly Lady, in love with Nanki-Poo … Lisa Yuen
A Gentleman of Japan … David Costa
A Lady of Japan … Alaina Fragoso

ORCHESTRA:

Piano; Conductor … Todd C. Gordon
Trumpet … Tim Cote
Trombone … Rick Copeland
Percussion … Zachary Hardy
Bass … Brian Grochowski
Reeds … Heather Katz-Cote

"THE RAT PACK IS BACK"

written by Dick Feeney

directed by Robbie Howard

musical direction by Lon Bronson

choreography by Ben Lokey

Frank Sinatra … Brian Duprey
Dean Martin … Drew Anthony
Sammy Davis, Jr. … Kyle Diamond
Joey Bishop … Mickey Joseph

Now that the theatre season is drawing to a close, New Repertory Theatre’s HOT MIKADO and Stoneham Theatre’s THE RAT PACK IS BACK offer pleasant transitions between Spring and Summer-Stock.

HOT MIKADO is a swing-revamping of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular comic-opera, based upon the all-black Swing and Hot Mikado entertainments of the 1930s --- the results only partially catch fire because G&S were tweaking the social and theatrical conventions of their own day, and ‘tis tricky to spoof a spoofer; secondly, much of the Mikado score does not take kindly to the Big Band sound --- the one true exception being “Three Little Maids”, a showstopper in all formats --- thirdly, G&S may have written fluff but they wrote solid, well-constructed fluff, and unless a spoofer departs completely from the source as the late Anna Russell did in her monologue “How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera”, he must occasionally stop clowning and give the masters their due (the Huntington’s production of PIRATES! also rose and fell in similar manner). Then there is the presentation of HOT MIKADO: ideally, it should be performed as a Big Band revue with an all-black cast, as was in the 1930s versions --- the New Rep production stages it as an out-and-out book-musical with a Japanese-enough set, 1940s fashions, and an integrated cast: the results are homogenized, which is a nicer way of saying “politically correct” (just think if the production had been faithful in spirit: black stereotypes performing Asian stereotypes as conceived by two Victorian gentlemen of the British Empire --- politically correct be damned; especially when Japan was America’s enemy in the 1940s!).

That said, the New Rep cast is a lot of fun, jumping about like grasshoppers to Kelli Edwards’ suggestions of jitterbugging and filtering some authentic wails, scat and grit through their anthem-belts (the Sondheim theatre-generation, now having to (re)learn the basics of old-time musicals: singing, dancing, and “putting over” a number), and whenever Kennedy Reilly-Pugh’s Mikado struts in, bringing a whiff of what the old-time chitlin-circuit might have been like, this MIKADO threatens to become hot, indeed.

Political correctness is checked once again at the Stoneham door for THE RAT PACK IS BACK, the latest version of the popular Las Vegas-style showcase featuring singing, dancing, and clowning impersonators of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop. This is the third time around that I’ve attended these tuxedoed gods at play and they continue to be rowdy good company; anachronistic jokes about President Obama, Viagra and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN have been added alongside the older, bluer ones, but on the afternoon I attended, the largely senior audience nevertheless whooped it up, sang along when encouraged, and weren’t the least bit offended by the chauvinistic humor (for the record, the women guffawed louder than the men). THE RAT PACK IS BACK delivers a double-dose of nostalgia --- not only for the now-vanished world of Las Vegas in the 1960s, but by indirectly showing how cautious, nay, timid we have become, today, in our comedy and in our laughter.

"Hot Mikado" (2-22 May)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
Arsenal Center for the Arts, Charles Mosesian Theater
321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN, MA
1 (617) 923-8487

"The Rat Pack is Back" (6-9 June)
STONEHAM THEATRE
395 Main Street, STONEHAM, MA
1 (781) 279-2200

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