"I am an acquired taste," insists Katisha, "The Mikado's" aging but still hopeful mezzo-soprano. "Only the educated palate can appreciate me." So are the Gilbert and Sullivan operas in general. The charms of these unique bits of musical theater are as exquisite as Katisha's internationally famous left shoulder blade or the voluptuous beauty of her right elbow, but one must approach them with the proper spirit of playful reverence, a special mystique.
For the last dozen years, that mystique has been assiduously cultivated by the Washington Savoyards, whose rambunctious "Mikado" opened last night at the Trinity Theatre in Georgetown. It is the second "Mikado" this city has seen within a year, and compared with last summer's performance by the New York City Opera it is the second best. But if this "Mikado" is to be welcomed with modified rapture, it is to be welcomed, nonetheless.
One hard-core G&S fan at the opening night was Sir Oliver Wright, the British ambassador, who remarked during intermission that he was enjoying it thoroughly and that "it reminds me of when I used to sing it at school." Precisely right; it is that kind of production -- a solid, provincial Gilbert and Sullivan, valid on its own terms (including reasonable ticket prices) and charming for its quirky individuality as well as its dedication to keeping alive the sacred flame. This production finds hidden talents in computer specialists, government employes, researchers and executives when they are put on stage with aspiring professional performers.
The musical beauties of this "Mikado" (well-conducted by Richard A. Fazio) are entrusted primarily to tenor Hugh Harvey III and soprano Nancy Peery Marriott, with distinguished support from Nancy Low and Mary Ann Williamson as the other two little maids from school. The production's comedy is presented in broad, effective strokes by John H. Perine, who conveys vividly the manic-depressive mood swings of Ko-Ko; Michael Loomis, a Lord High Everything Else who knows how to use a fan as a percussion instrument; and Ellyn Lomack Crawford, who makes Katisha a veritable force of nature. David Low as the Mikado and Thomas Howard as Pish-Tush also perform commendably.
There will be nine weekend performances in all (including Saturday and Sunday matinees) through Jan. 19, and they should be well-attended.