The Maumelle Players have just come off the first weekend of one of their most elaborate shows complete with a live orchestra. If you missed the first weekend, you don’t want to miss the second and final weekend. Sarah Dailey, Music Director, and Victor Werner, Stage Director, have put together a show that will have you humming songs from Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical comedy, The Mikado. If you have ever used or heard such phrases as “Let the punishment fit the crime” or heard of someone referred to as “the Grand Pooh-Bah,” you are using words that originated with this play. The Mikado has been produced more than any other play on the planet.
And The Players has a cast that extends across the planet all the way to China. Zhao Zirui (or Joe) is from China and attending UCA in Vocal Performance. His booming bass voice will make you cringe in your seats as he looks for a punishment that fits the crime and he wants someone beheaded (although nobody has ever met this fate and probably never will).
Not to be outdone by his entrance and in a playful “upstaging” of one another is his “daughter-in-law” elect, Katisha, played by Satia Spencer. Ms. Spencer was featured in the UALR production of Carmina Burana which was staged at the Maumelle High School earlier this month. She does an excellent job of both singing and acting the part of the elderly lady set to be wed to The Mikado’s only son, Nanki-Poo, who has fled his father’s court in search of his own choice in brides. Ms. Spencer’s powerful voice and melancholy arias will leave you loving her and hating her at the same time.
Nanki-Poo is played by a Maumelle local, Ron Evatt. Nanki-Poo, while fleeing his father’s court (and Katisha), sees the lovely Yum-Yum (Genevieve Kimbrough-local voice teacher in Conway and Little Rock). Nanki-Poo comes to the town of Titipu looking for her but is mildly rebuffed by the local nobles. She is betrothed to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner and her guardian. Through a variety of humorous events, we follow the young lovers as they try to figure out how to be together without going against The Mikado’s decree that any unmarried man who is caught winking or uttering a “non-connubial sigh” to “forthwith be beheaded”. All of this, of course is “tongue in cheek” as Gilbert and Sullivan from the UK, were actually using the stage to poke fun at their own culture and political scene. They use a Japanese setting to create a certain amount of distance between the current Victorian culture and their criticisms of it. While The Mikado was written over 100 years ago, many songs are traditionally updated for current times. This includes, “The List” song, where Ko-Ko, The Lord High Executioner, sings about current members of society who, if they were to be executed, would not, in any way, be missed.
Eric Harrison, a familiar actor, in various venues around Little Rock, makes a wonderful Pooh-Bah, (Lord High Everything Else) where he takes on the function of almost all the town’s officials. They have refused to serve when Ko-Ko is let out of jail and appointed as the Lord High Executioner.
Rounding out the principals are Yum-Yum’s sisters Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo, played by Hayley Coughlin and Stefanie Johnston. Both of these actresses have many other musicals and operas to their credit. Stefanie appeared in the last production of The Maumelle Players.
The ladies ensemble performs their numbers in colorful kimonos and rich harmony. They put the icing on the cake of this excellent production.
Tickets are available online at www.maumelleplayers.org and are $15 for adults and $12 for Seniors (65 and over, students and children). The Mikado is family friendly. Showtime’s are 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the matinee starts at 3 p.m. You can call 492-9851 for more information. Search for us on Facebook as “The Maumelle Players” and “like” us!
NOTE: As usual, I need all the artists in Maumelle to get in touch with me so I can write about you (or your neighbor). Building an arts community is a challenging task. Coming together in this column is certainly a great way to start. Let us know about your event or organization so we can give it a place in a Spotlight on the Arts feature story or calendar. Contact me at email@example.com.