By Myra Chanin
God Bless the Brooklyn Diocese, God Bless Father Ed Doran, and God Bless David Fuller and Judith Jarosz, the Producing Artistic Directors of Theatre 2020 for allowing worshippers of every faith and creed to venerate Euterpe, Thalia and Terpsichore, the respective muses of music, comedy and dance, whenever 2020 presents a couldn’t-be-better musical in the architecturally impressive and acoustically exquisite nave and chancel of St. Charles Borromeo’s Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn Heights. Hallelujah and Amen! Defy the Arctic frost. Confront snow, sleet and ice! And rather than immerse yourself in the redundant banalities of 50 Shades of Grey’s S&M and B&D, concentrate instead on F, Q, and R, plus any lettered or numbered trains connecting to the F, Q or R which will deposit you a stone’s throw from artistic accomplishments with a capital A.
The current production of The Singapore Mikado is David Fuller’s triple threat. He and Charles Berigan co-concieved it in 2006 and he now directs and co-stars in it with a little bit of help from Gilbert and Sullivan who supplied the score, libretto and much of the wit. Mikado’s plot and cunning lyrics suggest W. S. Gilbert as having inspired Steven Sondheim, Cole Porter, Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart. Sullivan’s stirring melodies also bring to mind Meredith Wilson’s Music Man and any spritely tune ever composed by Jerry Herman.
The Singapore Mikado takes place on December 10th, 1941, three days after the day that will live in infamy, at St. George’s Church in Singapore, where titled British toff, Sir Evelyn Estebrooke and friends will be performing The Mikado to distract themselves from their delusion that the 15-inch guns of one old and one new British battleship anchored in the harbor will prevail over 88 Japanese high-level bombers and the hordes of “little men who are poor fighters” silently slinking towards Singapore on stolen bikes through what the British considered an impenetrable” Malay jungle.
While Sir Evelyn and Deacon Donal Drumgoole Coleman, SM mingle and chat with the audience, peruse the cast notes in Sir Evelyn’s “program” which includes which “players” won Victoria Crosses or a cleanest bunk award for six consecutive weeks as well as individual vows to return home and “give the Jerries the thrashing they deserve!” As the pinstriped Sir Evelyn announces from the pulpit which exits to use in the unlikely event of a Japanese air raid, the entire ensemble, bedecked in elegant silk kimonos, gathers to introduce themselves musically as Nobles of Japan – their impeccable harmony enhanced by the church’s heavenly acoustics.
Here’s the mishmashy plot. Nanki-Poo, disguised as a third trombonist, is actually the Mikado’s heir, who fled his father’s court to avoid marriage to an elderly lady because he’s hopelessly in love with Yum-Yum, who’s betrothed to Ko-Ko, her “cheap tailor” guardian. When he learns Ko-Ko’s been sentenced to death for the high crime of flirting, Nanki-Poo returns to claim Yum-Yum only to discover Ko-Ko’s not only been released but appointed Lord High Executioner which makes Nanki-Poo attempt suicide just as Ko-Ko receives the Mikado’s missive demanding someone be executed before the end of the month … or else. Because suicide is a capital offense, Ko-Ko offers to do the job for Nanki-Poo in order to hold on to his job but Nanki-Poo refuses unless he can enjoy a month of headed wedded bliss before Ko-Ko chops off his head and marries his widow. It’s a deal until Yum-Yum learns that a beheaded man’s widow must be buried alive. Fortunately a Japanese air raid provides an intermission. In the Second Act, the Mikado sorts everything out and everyone lives happily at least for the nonce.
As for the performers, I can’t imagine finding better singers or actors on Broadway. Three cheers for the innocent, clear tenor and the unblemished complexion of mangenue Micheal Penick as Reginald “Reggie” D’Ascoyne, Lieutenant, R. N. playing Nanki-Poo. Equally noteworthy is slyly, plump Greg Horton’s as the irresistible Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko, particularly when singing lyrics which sound like they’d been ripped from Kiss Me Kate’s I Hate Men! describing who’s on his death list and won’t be missed:
The pestilential nuisances who write for autographs —
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs —
David Fuller’s Pooh-Bah is schizophrenically delightful when as Ko-Ko’s Private Secretary he gives Ko-Ko permission to charge his wedding to the town coffers but forbids that same scam in his capacity of Lord of the Exchequer and threatens to jail him for it as Chief Judge. And a Victoria Cross to Judith Jarosz for her choreography, which allows people with minimal dance creds to move as though they studied at the Bolshoi. Correction! A Victoria Cross to everyone involved in this production!
Tickets are only $18! for a show that will delight people of all ages. Friends took their 8-year-old son and their difficult teenage daughter with them and they all left smiling and talking to each other!
Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 PM Sunday afternoons at 3 pm. Until March 8th
The Saint Charles Borromeo Church, 19 Sidney Place between Joralemon St. & Aitken Place in Brooklyn Heights