MARQUETTE – The Northern Michigan University music department will present The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu), a light opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, through Saturday, April 30, in Forest Roberts Theatre. There will also be a 1 p.m. Saturday matinee.
NMU music professor Robert Engelhart said The Mikado is among the most popular and most often performed operas in the world.
"It set a record for its initial run in London, with more than 600 performances," he added. "London was enamored with everything Japanese at that time. There was an exhibition of Japanese culture in the city and the people couldn't seem to get enough of it. Gilbert and Sullivan productions are known for their stinging satire of British society – its silly rules, illogical laws and people stuck in the middle trying to make the best of it. The Mikado achieves the same thing, but indirectly. It plays off the fascination with Japanese culture by being set in that country, but it's meant to satirize British society, not the Japanese."
Engelhart ranks The Mikado among the top three Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations. The other two would be The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore, which Engelhart previously directed at NMU.
"I've always loved The Mikado and wanted to stage it here," Engelhart added. "It also seemed like a logical next step in terms of bringing in an orchestra. We relied on piano accompaniment for past productions, but this cast will sing with a 20-piece orchestra. It will enhance the terrific tunes and marvelous orchestration in this show. Yet for all its wonderful music, the stage requirements are relatively simple, compared with Pinafore, for example."
The Mikado is set in the Japanese town of Titipu. It revolves around a young fellow named Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado, who has disguised himself as a wandering minstrel and falls in love with Yum-Yum. Unfortunately, she is betrothed to her guardian, Ko-Ko, who has been condemned to death for the capital offense of flirting. Upon hearing the news, Nanki-Poo quickly returns, only to find that Ko-Ko has gained a last-minute reprieve. He has been promoted to the rank of Lord High Executioner by those in power who reason that since Ko-Ko was next in line, he can't cut off anyone else's head until he cuts off his own.
The Mikado soon notices the lack of executions. Desperate to save his own head, Ko-Ko finds a substitute in Nanki-Poo, who is determined to take his own life rather than live without Yum-Yum. Nanki-Poo agrees to be executed in one month, on the condition he marry Yum-Yum immediately. But as the wedding celebration beings, a law is discovered – to Yum-Yum's distress – that decrees a condemned man's wife must be buried alive with his corpse.
Cast members and their respective roles are: John Schmidt, the Mikado of Japan; Bill Duguid, Nanki-Poo; Brian Elliott, Ko-Ko; Alfred Keefer, Pooh-Bah; Nolan Bunce, Pish-Tush; Susan Boyle, Yum-Yum; Betony Furgeson, Pitti-Sing; Laura Johnson, Peep-Bo; and Leslie Parkkonen, Katisha.
The men's chorus is comprised of Eric Foster, Kurt Hauswirth, Matt Peach, Brandon Salo, Alec Lindsay, Joe Shields, Jesse Howell, Matt Hudson and Jason Moody. Members of the women's chorus are Laura Fosmire, Natalie Richards, Sara Alvord, Katie Cheung, Kathy Saville, Michelle Dunphy, Stephanie LaVeque and Autumn Daley.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for NMU students or children under 13. They are available at all NMU ticket outlets or online at www.nmu.edu/tickets.