Troupers’ Il Mikado set in Renaissance Milan

Yes, Il Mikado! It’s not a typo, and yes, in the Renaissance, not in a fairy tale Japan, and not in the town of Titipu, but rather the town of Tirmisu. The reasons for the switch are well discussed in OM’s preview of Mikado, which lies below on this page; one can also read about the matter in the Troupers’ program, pick up one when you go, as you should, for the Trouper’s Il Mikado is a prodigious outpouring of great music, fine singing, and good cheer.

Happily the transition to Milan is relatively unobtrusive, certainly not distracting. Gilbert’s plot and wit are intact and Sullivan’s music is all there. Yes, some lyrics are changed, conspicuously in the large choral entrances. For instance, the text for O Fortuna, the big opening chorus of Orff’s Carmina Burana is substituted for Mia sama chorus accompanying the Ducato’s entrance, sans Orff’s music of course. But, truth be told, I couldn’t understand a word past “We are gentlemen of Milan” in the opening chorus. Frank Sisson’s version of Coco’s song in Act I is a list of Renaissance notables who never would be missed, a tongue twister every bit as funny as Gilbert’s original. Quite creative, actually.

 Brett Kroeger as Amiam and David Richy as Niccolù, the young lovers

Brett Kroeger as Amiam and David Richy as Niccolù, the young lovers

Mikado is a tale full of comic plot reversals affecting Niccolù and Amiam’s young love for each other, which, from the very get-go, is the core of the plot…after all, his very first line is “Gentlemen, I pray you tell me where a gentle maiden dwelleth named Amiam.” Most of the other characters are significant, but on the whole rather silly impediments to their joyful union.

As in H.M.S. Pinafore last season, the cast here is particularly strong. David Richy, as Niccolù, and Brett Kroeger, as Amiam, effortlessly fill the hall with their ebullient sound. Richy’s voice is more evenly placed over his vocal range, giving it a fine sheen; once again Kroeger is totally and delightfully square into the G & S style, both vocally and dramatically, radiant as the sun and moon she sings about. Under the direction of Keith Miller, each creates a believable character, but they also partner well with each other through the many tests their relationship must endure over the course of the opera.

 Chris Hetherington as Poobà, Alan Briones as Piccia Tuccia, and Frank Sisson as Coco sing the trio "I am so proud..." in Act I

Chris Hetherington as Poobà, Alan Briones as Piccia Tuccia, and Frank Sisson as Coco sing the trio “I am so proud…” in Act I

Frank Sisson as Coco is a happy creation, not to say a happy character…after all, he, an insecure nervous nelly, suffers the most. But Sisson, too, is squarely in his comic element, as he was last year as Captain Corcoran of the Pinafore. He communicates the mounting stress as each solution Coco concocts to save his head comes to naught. Poor fellow: so close to a lasting peace of mind, yet so far! But it ends happily for him, in a manner of speaking. The comic journey is something to savor.

Chris Hetherington’s Poobà is also a fine character, big, pompous, well spoken and well sung. Hetherington makes his Troupers debut with these performances; one hopes he sees fit to hang around.

 Wendy Falconer, Brett Kroeger, and Jennifer Wallace as the three little maids with other maiden attendants

Wendy Falconer, Brett Kroeger, and Jennifer Wallace as the three little maids with other maiden attendants

Sarah Knott is a formidable Catiscià in voice, stature and dramatic delivery. Fierce is a word that springs to mind. Yet, in her dialogue and duet with Coco near the end of the performance, she can also play the minx. And we get a sneaky peek at her fascinating right elbow.  Wendy Falconer’s Pizzi, one of the three little maids from school, was a proper companion to Amiam and co-conspiratrix with Coco and Poobà in Act II; Jennifer Wallace’s Pippa, the third little maid from school, is a joy to behold.

Long time veteran Trouper David Schancupp took a regal stance as Il Ducato, richly costumed and commanding. His ‘list song’ sported Gilbert’s original lyrics, Bach interwoven with Spohr and Beethoven and all that, these being certainly not about the Japanese, so I’ll say it flies; Alan Briones, as Piccia Tuccia, gave more thrust to a character who sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Brightly sung throughout. The choruses sing with gusto, filling the Norwalk Concert Hall with a big sound.

Music Director Eric Kramer, striving for cohesion in his orchestra, took Sullivan’s music at mostly a broad pace, though at moments the eager singers got ahead of it. Each was quickly and intelligently remedied, however. Kevin Miller’s direction used repetitive gestures to comic effect as if to punctuate the goings on, such as smacking Niccolù at seemingly all turns or Il Ducato crisply waving to demand complete silence. But Miller also let the comedy breathe by creating more human sides to Gilbert’s characters. Either due to cast fatigue or through fault of Gilbert and Sullivan, the performance tended to sag slightly at times in Act II.

Carl Mezoff’s sets for Renaissance Milan were sumptuous, particularly the faux three dimensional backdrop of richly colored Renaissance archways.

All in all there were big smiles with Il Mikado and enthusiastic applause throughout the afternoon. The final performances are Saturday.

Performance date: Saturday matinee, April 14, 2018. Happy birthday, BD!

Photos culled from the Trouper’s website, which, you should know, is posting a short documentary about the production of Il Mikado, behind the scenes, rehearsals, performance shots, adoring fans, etc. It is still in production as I write this.

The Troupers Light Opera Company performs Gilbert and Sullivan’s Il Mikado again on the stage of the Norwalk Concert Hall on Saturdays, April 21, @ 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets may be ordered through their website

Again the cast: Amiam is sung by Brett Kroeger, Niccolù by David Richy, Frank Sisson is Coco, Sarah Knott is Catiscià, David Schauncupp is Il Ducato, Alan Briones is Piccia Tuccia, Chris Heatherington is Poobà, Wendy Falconer is Pizzi, Jennifer Wallace is Pippa. In the Chorus are Sarah Callands, Moriah Callands, Rosa Parrotta, Maribeth Johnson, Suzanne Rossini, Pia Romano, Bill Abbott, Jim Cooper, Jeffrey Rossman, Guy Stretton, and Rob Strom. Eric Kramer is Music Director, Kevin Miller is the Stage Director, Jim Cooper is Choral Director, and Dorothy Kolinsky is Repetiteur, Costumes are by Pat Hurd, Sets designed by Carl Mezoff.

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