Billericay Operatic Society at the Brentwood Theatre
Eighty years ago, this very society staged their first ever show, the Mikado. Only ten years later an all-black Hot Mikado hit Broadway, and this was the inspiration for Rob Bowman's ingenious, and hugely enjoyable, re-working.
“If Gilbert and Sullivan could see me now …” mused the J Edgar Hoover of Japan [Ian Rainsby’s not very menacing Mikado], as he tapped his troubles away in Act Two. Well, they’d certainly recognize the plot, though it was trimmer and slimmer in this low-fat, full-flavoured version.
And the tunes, too, though it was here that the really clever changes were made.
So Katisha [a barn-storming performance from Gail Carpenter] had a big Gospel number, and a very witty arrangement of her first entrance, and the Three Little Maids,fronted by Gill McGarry's knowing Yum Yum, owed a lot to the Andrews Sisters.
The coolest cat in Titipu, Poo Bah, no less, was played with sleek charm by Brian Plumb, but the stand-out male performers were director and choreographer Wayne Carpenter as Nanki-Poo, a clean-cut college boy with enormous specs and an ego to match, and Philip Cousins' perfect Koko, neatly capturing a vocal style somewhere between lyric and lounge. His little list included revivalists and ragtime.
The show looked great in this relatively intimate space, with technicolor zoot suits and print frocks; the invisible band, under MD Derrick Thompson, was a constant delight.