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Theatre Arts Guild1
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The Mikado, by Gilbert & Sullivan
What are they teaching these kids?
Friday, February 22, 2008
It has to be said. I'm sorry for sounding so negative, but I'm trying to find constructive ways to say things. Frankly, I'm not sorry about what I have to say. I do feel sorry for the students that participated in this production. I thought very long and hard about what to say about TAG's production of The Mikado. In summation, I felt that this was a valiant yet feeble attempt at classic music literature.

Before I begin giving my humble opinion, I am not about degrading a performance by any means. However, TAG list themselves as an Education Theatrical institution. Frankly, I find it appalling that Susan J. McEwen and Sally Robertson consider any part of this production educational.

One: Gilbert and Sullivan is NOT musical theatre. It is operetta. It is as different as night and day. It is never appropriate to masquerade operetta as early musical theatre. From what I read in the bios of the cast, many of the students were vocal performance majors. For that, I can forgive TAG for doing an operetta. However, leave operetta to Opera Workshops and Opera Theatre programs. When doing an operetta, cast legitimate classically trained singers. I hated that I heard some contemporary pop-style musical theatre voices, but it wasn't the singer's fault so much the direction that allowed that to occur.

Two (and this will sound redundant at first): The Mikado is an operetta; not a musical. There should be NO amplification used. If you do not have young voices that are mature enough to sing over an orchestra, don't perform the show. If you do not have young voices that are mature enough to sing over an orchestra, use a double-piano reduction. The beauty of operetta and opera is that the listener can hear the beauty of the voice. I find it very hard to enjoy the naturally occurring sounds when it's being run through a sound system. This isn't RENT. The amplification did not help the horrendous diction throughout the show. This cast could not sing classically in the English language. Any attempts at a neutral or British accent was muddled. I'm pretty sure this was due to a lack of coaching. There is nothing pretty about the retroflex r sound when it is not even followed by an ending consonant. Inexcusable Ms. McEwen!

Three: I felt that many of the voices were miscast throughout the cast. Both the community members and the students did an excellent job for what they were given. However, I felt that many people were misused or underutilized. The highlights of the show were Nicholas Morrett, Katie rouse, and Jeffrey David Gibb. However, I felt they were singing innappropriate roles for they voice types. Mr. Gibb has a splendid baritone voice, but G&S is not something that should be forced into his repetoire. While Katie Rouse did a wonderful job in a comedic role, she is clearly not a contralto as the role of Katisha is. Whose idea was it to cast a soubrette in that role?? Bravo to Nicholas Morrett for a job well done. Though he gave a fantastic performance, I worried for his voice throughout the production because his "tweener" voice didn't really settle into any of the baritone roles or the tenor roles. Also, I felt that Peep-Bo and Yum Yum were miscast. Within the famed trio number from The Mikado, it always seemed misbalanced. I get the feeling that there was a little physical type casting involved between the two sopranos. Non-traditional casting has long been apart of classical music. It seems misleading from an educational standpoint to cast that way when it doesn't necessarily happen in the major houses in the United States or Europe.

On the more positive side, I was visually stimulated by the set and costuming. It's a very traditional take on The Mikado, and it is always gorgeous to see. I did not, however, understand why lyrics were changed in various numbers throughout the show. If G&S is going to be modernized for any reason at all, the entire production should reflect that. Never would I have expected something as horrifying as hearing Britney Spears' name in the middle of an aria. On a side note, I found that the social commentary on her to be in bad taste. She is a real person with real problems to deal with...and her name was exploited for a cheap laugh. Unbelievable!!!

Don't get me wrong! This show was entertaining, but it seemed doomed from the start. TAG needs to consider what they are teaching and to whom they are teaching when they plan their seasons. I cannot say this enough; those students cannot learn anything if it is not catered to their needs. For the talent that was in the show, TAG should have been performing Rodgers & Hammerstein or Lerner & Loewe. And given how the production was produced, TAG should have done Godspell or Pippin. If there is a next time, I'm going to bring a fake student ID so that I don't have to pay so much to watch students get miseducated by irresponsible teachers.

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