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Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Mikado is delightful

THE MIKADO

By Gilbert and Sullivan.

The MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players.

Conducted by Steven McDonald.

Directed by Karen Mueller.

McDermott Hall, Room 54-100,

April 12-14, 20-21 at 8 pm,

April 13 and 20 at 2 pm.

By JONATHAN RICHMOND

THE G & S PEOPLE HAVE COME UP with another delightful concoction that will leave you smiling, but not necessarily in the most expected of ways. The orchestral playing is the best thing about the MIT Gilbert & Sullivan Players' Mikado, and very witty it is, too. Conductor Steven McDonald has a way of coaxing each delicious nuance out of the music: making his strings sing with glee; his winds dwell delectably on epithets full of naughtiness; his brass blaze wickedly to captivate the most philistine of musical palates.

There were many moments when the most enjoyable thing to do was to simply focus in on what the orchestra was doing: It was invariably clever, and more than wonderful enough to overlook the odd technical miscreance.

As for the goings on on stage, here things were mixed.

Two members of the cast were simply superb. The best singing came from the beautifully rounded voice of Deborah Kreuze '91. Majestic sounding, as well as wonderfully controlled in song, Kreuze brought strong characterization to Katisha, the woman with the left shoulder blade people come miles to see in spite of the expression-to-kill Kreuze lovingly modulated.

Kreuze was moving at times too, making more of her character than a Gilbert & Sullivan puppet: We felt for her and for her unrequited love.

And then there was Dave Harrison's Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner too squeamish to terminate a mouse, let alone a human being. Harrison was the funniest on stage: Highly expressive of both gesture and voice, he kept the laughter going, whether with his gory, bravura description of a decapitation or with his forays into self-doubt. "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring" went with a nice beat, while "Tit-Willow" was captivating. "I've got a Little List" had updated lyrics -- with children who wear Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle clothes included among the people who "wouldn't be missed" should they volunteer themselves for his services. It was a blast.

Laura White sang the role of Pitti-Sing nicely, and much of the other singing was competent if not first-rate. Jeffrey Manwaring found lyricism in the part of Nanki-Poo, for example, even though his voice was too often on the thin side. Kristin Hughes sang a number of Yum-Yum's passages prettily. Michael Mendyke '89 got some laughs for his portrayal of the Mikado, even if his singing of "My Object All Sublime" wasn't quite smooth enough.

The chorus sang adequately, but lacked characterization. It is a shame that the sublime humor which inflected orchestral sound did not for the most part translate into the choral performances. More attention should have been paid to the staging of the chorus.

Overall, this production is nonetheless a lot of fun and will leave you singing the tunes, imagining that Steven McDonald's enraptured orchestra is following along with you. Go see it!