Shenfield Operatic Society at the Brentwood Theatre
Lots of débuts in this very enjoyable trip to Titipu, not least Rick McGeouch's as director. His Mikado was a pleasingly traditional take on G&S, with superb set design, striking oriental costumes and inventively used fans. The strangely configured stage was brilliantly used; the Act One finale was especially well choreographed [Annette Harris]. But he did allow himself a few modern modifications: I liked the King's Speech spoof; I was less sure about the trashing of Tit Willow.
He did have a fantastic cast to work with. Stuart Brown's comic Koko, his roots in the rag trade still showing, gave a performance to treasure in the Lytton part. His Little List, entirely updated, even-handedly included both Waitrose and The Only Way Is Essex.
Simon Cook's light tenor was well suited to Nanki-Poo, and he proved a fine actor, too. His Yum Yum was Louise Stuckey, in her first leading role for Shenfield – she has a lovely soprano, and was entirely convincing as a graduate of a ladies' seminary. Her two giggling companions were Hannah Matthews-Jones as a perky Peep-Bo and Lauren Ramshaw as Pitti-Sing, very effective in the ensembles.
Nina Jarram [a G&S virgin] made a wonderful Katisha – touching at times, but mostly a terrifying predator.
Neil Sturgess was a well-characterized Lord High Everything Else, and Boot Banes a revelation as the Emperor – an imposing figure with a memorably mirthless laugh. [I'd no idea his armoury included the Savoy Canon.]
Adrian Ure was the MD [his first time with Shenfield, too], heading up an unusual reduction for woodwind and piano.