Monday, August 12, 2019

The Mikado: A Concert Version

On opening night of the Mikado, The Orlando Taiko Dojo demonstrated the traditional art of Japanese drums known as “Taiko.” Taiko drums were used in battlefields and have been used in religious ceremonies and festivals for over 2,000 years in Japan. Besides learning the techniques of playing the drums, students learn about other essential values in life like respect, manners, concentration, tenacity, and teamwork. I had sketched them before. So I saved my sketching for the Mikado performance. Producer Theresa Smith-Levin and Nicole Dupre did an incredible job making this a cross-collaborative experience, with a historical exhibition by the Orange County Regional History Center, as well as art adorning the lobby.

The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan is a fun, lighthearted opera about romance in ancient Japan. Nanki-Poo (Bryan Hayes) arrived in Titipu disguised as a peasant and looking for Yum-Yum (Tamir Hernandez Rosa), a young girl he fell in love with several months earlier. However, she was already set to marry Ko-Ko (Stephen Cauley). Naki-Poo, in his despair, contemplates suicide. Ko-Ko persuades Nanki Poo to let him behead him instead. To clinch the deal, Ko-Ko even agrees to let Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum, providing he agrees to be executed in one month. However, Ko-Ko can’t kill anything, not even a fly.

This production had some modern twists with references to Facebook and Puba, first lord of the treasury, lord chief justice, commander-in-chief, etc (John Segers) references his grand ancestry discovered with some help from 23 and Me. Through collaboration with the Asian American community in Orlando, Central Florida Vocal Arts in partnership with Space Coast Symphony Orchestra used this work as an opportunity to celebrate Japanese art and culture via this satirical work.

Directed by Asian American director, Kit Cleto, with support from veteran opera director Eric Pinder, this production teambrought creative comedy to the stage through an outstanding cast. Nicole Dupre had hand painted many of the costumes. The lavish amount of work was astonishing. I got to see her handiwork up close on her own dress, as well as one on  Theresa Smith-Levin, afterwords in the lobby reception. Nicole's grandmother was in the audience seeing one of her productions for the first time.

My favorite funny moment in the show came when an exuberant dancer (Geoff) leaped with balletic grace while waving a red ribbon, and an old man (Ian Campbell) followed him waving the same type of red ribbon like it was a soggy wet noodle, reflecting his dour disposition. There was humor and joy in the performance, and despite the difficulties and conflicts, life seemed worth the joy of living before our final bow

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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