Mikado The Hypocrites

Extended Popular Demand. 

Final shows Thu & Fri 730p; Sat 3p & 730p. Closes Jan 19th

Highly Recommended - "..about the most fun you can have in a Chicago theater...You just don't want this show to end...In our tough city, artful, innovative shows that can spark grins, smiles and communal good feeling are crucial to be our well being, especially in winter. This is one such show for all" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 12/5/12

Four Stars  - " The Hypocrites mine Gilbert and Sullivan’s farcical operetta for every bit of fun" - Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago 11/29/12


Jeff Recommended

Tix $28 - 773.989.7352

(Mikado runs in rep with The Hypocrites "Pirates of Penzance")

11/20/12 - 01/13/13

Mikado (Fri 730p; Sat 730p; Sun 3p). Pirates of Penzance (Sat

Highly Recommended - Hypocrites' Mikado is a "glorious circus" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 12/4/12. " A few innovative theaters have started offering child care somewhere in their building. But for its outrageously enjoyable and inclusive new  take on "The Mikado," The Hypocrites upped the ante in a way that would have made old W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan choke on those Victorian notions of the bairn being seen but not heard.

In one corner of the basement of the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park sits a bar serving fruity adult cocktails with colorful names. In another resides a mosh pit filled with balloons, which, on Sunday afternoon, was filled with wriggling,
 thrilled-to-bits children (and a couple of animated adults) who were so entranced as to free their parents to drink one of those aforementioned cocktails and actually enjoy the stellar rendition of "Three Little Maids from School."
And when one of those light-opera-loving munchkins happened to pop a balloon, the entire proceedings halted not for admonition of the miscreant, but for a rousing communal cheer.

"The Mikado," which is about the most fun you can have in a Chicago theater with your family this holiday season, can truly be said to be a show for almost everyone. You just don't want this show to end. Child haters can stay in the
 hipster sections, where couples cuddle. Those who can't (or grumps who won't) move around during this promenade production get their own raised seating section, far from the balloons.

Sean Graney's immersive production of the third most famous G&S operetta (after "The Pirates of Penzance" and "HMS Pinafore") is his second experiment with operetta. His 2010 production of "Pirates" (now playing in repertory
with "The Mikado") was such a hit in Chicago, it subsequently traveled to the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. — and is having a reprise mainstage engagement there next year. "The Mikado" is every bit as good,
if not better.

I recall in 2010 writing caveats in my "Pirates" review along the lines of: this is a great time, but you have to live without stellar acting and singing. No such disclaimer is necessary with "The Mikado." Well, obviously, we are not at the
Lyric Opera nor the Light Opera Works, and a banjo can't replace a full orchestra. But it can be a lot funnier. And regardless of the tony surroundings, "The Mikado" always is staged as a self-aware pastiche. It won't work any other way.

Not only is the fun here more involving and experiential, but the vocals from such singers as Matt Kahler, who plays Pooh-Bah, and, especially, Shawn Pfautsch, who plays the combination of Nanki-Poo and Katisha (yes, it can be
 done) need no apology. I'd stack up Pfautsch's hilariously intimidating Katisha against any D'Oyly Carte characterization, any day of the week, and Emily Casey's spunky Yum Yum is just as Yum Yum as it needs to be. She also turns her  skills to the title role.

Graney's modus operandi with this very clever little niche — ideally suited to his talents — is to stage the shows with about 10 actors sharing some kind of fun, experiential environment with their audience. ("Pirates" has a Caribbean vibe;
 "The Mikado," where Japanese characters have always behaved like they were London parliamentarians, wisely stays away from race and place and is realized in a kind of three-ring circus.) Graney's use of promenade-style movement
has greatly increased in sophistication over the decade or so I've been watching him experiment, and all the switching around in "The Mikado," which features a joyous set and costumes from Michael Smallwood and Alison Siple, has a
 new smoothness and ease that the diverse audience at The Hypocrites clearly has embraced. In our tough city, artful, innovative shows that can spark grins, smiles and communal good feeling are crucial to be our well being, especially
 in winter. This is one such show for all".

Four Stars  - "Mikado - The Hypocrites mine Gilbert and Sullivan’s farcical operetta for every bit of fun" - Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago 11/29/12Fans of the Hypocrites’ joyously daft, beach-ball-filled take on The Pirates of Penzance, and of the generally balanced measure of irreverence and respect in Sean Graney’s adaptations of classic texts, should find similar delight in the company’s new take on The Mikado, running in repertory with Penzance’s third annual outing.   Where Pirates scenic designer Tom Burch fashions the Chopin Theatre’s basement into a sun-kissed beach, Mikado’s Michael Smallwood offers up a two-ring circus, with Heather Gilbert’s lighting alternately bright and evocative.
A shared cast of ten actor-musicians enacts both Gilbert and Sullivan pieces this year in Graney’s favored promenade style; roaming actors and audience members lay equal claim to the space. Co-adapter Kevin O’Donnell cleverly reorchestrates Sullivan’s score for instruments ranging from acoustic guitar to toy piano. While the ensemble members may not find much deeper meaning in the farcical tale of hidden identities, self-contradicting laws and  impossibly overlapping love connections, they mine it for every bit of fun. Shawn Pfautsch  and Emily Casey are particularly impressive in dizzy double roles as Nanki-Poo/Katisha and Yum-Yum/the Mikado, respectively. Graney, Smallwood and costume designer Alison Siple  thankfully veer as far as possible from exploitative Orientalism, making this a safely cringe-free family pick"


The Mikado - Following in the footsteps of its highly successful and innovative “Pirates of Penzance,” which is being revived and running in repertory alongside of this offering, the Hypocrites are once again turning to
Gilbert & Sullivan this holiday season.  Those who only like their Gilbert & Sullivan served up with all of the trimmings, i.e., trained voices, full orchestrations, full chorus, et al, would be well-warned to stay  away from Sean Graney’s musically minimalist  version of either “Pirates of Penzance” or his newest G & S adaptation of the Victorian duo’s most famous work, “The Mikado.”

As with “Pirates,” Sullivan’s orchestrations are stripped down to the lowest-common-denominator guitar chords, largely strummed by the performers themselves hootenanny style, sometimes incorporating clarinet, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and accordion. From the opening change of lyric from “If you want to know who we are, we are gentlemen of this land” instead of “from Japan,” it is clear that the Japanese contours of the allegorical work are minimalized. And yet, the  Victorian ambiance is retained by the characters having faux British accents and often singing in a highly stylized manner, cleverly making G & S performance traditions themselves part of what is satirized here.

The setting is a circus, one large and one small ring, with characters by and large shown as the clown-like troubadours that they are. That atmosphere is established from the moment the space is entered into with performer and audience sing-alongs of folk-rock repertoire and games of catch with balloons, et al, ensuring connective interplay between the audience and the performers before the work itself begins and requiring the audience to move along with the action, often literally.

It was particularly interesting that at Sunday’s repertory opening there were many small children who were brought right into the story in some clever ways. It was an hysterical moment when Katisha makes her appearance, she enters into play with the children but of course, quickly becomes a spoiled child herself.

There are many clever twists and turns in this campy production which would be unfair to spoil here, which are also protected by the fact that the program is not given out until the eighty-minute adaptation has concluded.  Suffice to say that there is a significant amount of doubling of characters that, in this case, reveal some monumental psychological undercurrent and reveal an astonishing diversity of performing abilities.

And yes, while the music is heavily cut, some of the operetta’s most melodic moments are surprisingly effective in this format, notably Emily Casey’s tender traversal of “The sun whose rays are all ablaze” as a folk ballad
with her own guitar accompaniment"
  - Dennis Polkow, NewCityChicago 12/3/12

Music by Arthur Sullivan. Libretto by W.S. Gilbert

reimagined by Sean Graney and Kevin O'Donnell

Robert McLean, Matt Kahler,Christine Stulik, Ryan Bourque, Doug Pawlik, Shawn Pfautsch, Becky Poole, Dana Omar and Emily Casey and Erik Schroeder

Scenic Designers - Tom Burch (Pirates) and Michael Smallwood (Mikado); Properties Designer - Maria DeFabo; Lighting Designers - Jared Moore(Pirates) and Heather Gilbert (Mikado); Choreographers - Maureen Janson Heintz (Pirates) and Katie Spelman (Mikado); Costume Designer - Alison Siple and Vocal Director - Andra Velis Simon

Tags: Theater, American, 2012