Arts & Events

Eye from the Aisle: The Hot Mikado at Pt. Richmond MASQUERS, Uneven but Thrilling

by John A. McMullen II
Friday November 18, 2011 - 09:04:00 AM
Amy Lucido as Yum-Yum
Jerry Telfer
Amy Lucido as Yum-Yum

It started out like a typical community theatre musical, kind of lackluster, some good actors and singers, some mediocre, the set very Japanese but everyone dressed for Guys and Dolls. It was the Point Richmond Masquers Playhouse production of The Hot Mikado, a swing era rewrite of Gilbert & Sullivan. For the most of the first act I was in and out, occasionally nodding. The band was flat and non- ensemble with no drummer (!?). The choreography seemed uninspired. There was a good barbershop-like harmony at one point. There is one truly impressive baritone, a couple of pretty girls, one a guy who had great moves, but pretty unmemorable all around.  

Then, about three-quarters through the first act, Debra Harvey came out, an African American woman in a blonde wig and full kimono and with a gospel/swing voice, hitting low notes I couldn’t get to get to, and she rattled the windows and shook up the show. The energy infected everyone on stage, the play came alive, the choreography jumped, the acting became perfectly comic, and the play ramped up like the price of gold in 2007.  

If you can wait out the first part, it’s worth it, because it becomes Broadway-worthy at successive intervals. 

The set by Bruce Lackovic is quite good, with sliding Japanese shoji screens and a large upstage oval gateway in counterpoint to downstage cabaret tables as if this were happening in a 30’s Jazz Club. The band is onstage but their presence does not detract from the stage picture. The costumes by Jo Lusk are colorful, larger than life, perfectly period, and award-worthy. Shanti Davis adept choreography for non-dancers picks up nicely in the second act. The musical direction by David Howitt was uneven in casting and accompaniment, but the pros he chose carry the show. Ellen Brooks direction moves the actors well, and allows the experienced the latitude to express themselves; more coaching is probably needed in a community theatre production from directors for the less experience actors.  

The principals Steve Beecroft as our hero Nanki-Poo who will gladly trade a month of happiness for a certain beheading to marry his beloved Yum-Yum played by Amy Lucido fulfill the lovers’ roles with aplomb.  

Memorable moments:  

  • Coley Grundman as a Stan Laurel-like Koko in a duet of “Tit-Willow” with Debra Harvey,
  • Anthony Lucido’s (Pish-Tush)versatile jazz riffs in his tenor and his athletic dance moves,
  • anytime Gill Stanfield (Pooh-Bah) sing (stiff in his acting, but when he opens his mouth!),
  • Katie Francis (Pitti-Sing) combination of dance and song in the right style,
  • Kimberly Miller’s posing like a “Vargas Girl” in counterpoint to a musical number, and her dancing in general,
  • the imposing figure of The Mikado, played by Keith Stevenson, reminiscent of Sheldon Leonard’s Harry the Horse in Guys and Dolls, with a British accent, and sung is an amazing voice in perfect fusion of G&S Light Opera and this swing version.
Gilbert & Sullivan wrote The Mikado in 1885, and placing it in exotic, faraway Japan, a country with which the British public was then fascinated, was only a ploy to place to disguise the parody of British politics of that time. The characters' names in the play are not Japanese names, but rather (in many cases) English baby-talk or simply dismissive exclamations. For instance, a pretty young vocalist is named Pitti-Sing; the beautiful heroine is named Yum-Yum; the pompous officials are Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush; the hero is called Nanki-Poo, baby-talk for "handkerchief" (Wikipedia, The Mikado). 


Adapted by David H Bell 

from The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan 

Through December 17th 

The Masquers Playhouse 

105 Park Place,
Point Richmond, CA 

(510) 232-4031./ 


Director Ellen Brook, Musical Director David Howitt, Set Design Bruce Lackovic, Choreography Shanti Davis, Costume Design Jo Lusk, Lighting Design Ellen Brooks, Props Linda Ellinwood. 


WITH: Sean Beecroft. Steve Beecroft, Laura Domingo, Pam Drummer Williams, Katie Francis, Bob Galagara, Coley Grundman, Debra Harvey, Kelly Lotz, Amy Lucido, Anthony Lucid, Kimberly Miller, Gill Stanfield, Keith Stevenson. 


John McMullen is a member of the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, and Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. Editing by EJ Dunne.