May 15, 2011

The Mikado

Late one Saturday afternoon, I had decided to take a nap after a haphazardly assembled study session of my Anatomy notes for class at Parker. An hour and a half later, I woke up. The clock read 6:35 pm. The show was to begin 30 minutes away in Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall at 7:30. I wasted no time jumping in, racing off and flying at a blistering 65 mph (faster than I usually go). “I’m not gonna make it,” I say. I encountered a gaggle of metallic geese unreasonably curious about a certain group of flashing lights going off on the other side of the highway barrier. “Oh, now I’m really not gonna make it.” Even so, I arrived at the parking lot at 7:25.

“All right,” I’m thinking, “5 minutes. You can do this.” 3 small blocks later, I crossed the entire width of the performance hall, paid for my student ticket, and recrossed most of the width again to find my seat. The chamber had been enveloped in darkness. The orchestra was intoning the concert A pitch for their final warmup. I sat in my seat. After the conductor popped his head up to greet us from within the pit, the orchestra played an overture of four songs.

The curtain rises to find a geisha standing with flourishing arms and a bent back and head, under a pure white spotlight, against a background of high-hanging Japanese lanterns and large, opaque shoji doors. This geisha soon found herself running away from ninjas careening down from the rafters on ropes, and the shoji doors immediately slid open to reveal a panel of linear lights. Businessmen slid out, talking away on their smartphones, one by one. They suddenly break out into a dance and do all sorts of wonky moves while singing a ditty until a fiery-headed macho man with an eclectic fashion sense (one mismatched sleeve from a letterman jacket was sewed onto a black leather jacket which was usually worn by the fairer sex) made his presence known. Nanki-poo, as this black-spotted chap-wearing punk rocker was called, declared his love of the girl with the bubble-gum hair, fittingly named Yum-Yum.

When that ended, a man with a white ragtop and an orange suit came riding out on the stage with orange-accented Heelys shoes. He bursts his bubble with news that the Ko-Ko (also an older man who was theretofore engaged to Yum-Yum and was supposedly condemned for the crime of flirting with said girl) had become the Lord High Executioner instead. Another man, wearing a white suit and a smirking look, appears and describes the Executioner’s functions to be “particularly vital.” Nanki-poo disappears to search for her.

The two men remaining behind with the businessmen break into song, but they paused in the middle of it... Pooh-bah, the white suited one, gestured to the conductor, who in turn pointed toward the lower right corner box closest to the stage. The spotlight tracked to that box, and out came a green-suited Ko-Ko, who proceeded to sing about people on his list of potential executions. Among them were Oprah, as he had thought the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) would take over the world, and Donald Trump and his “birthers” for believing Obama to have no proof of an American birth certificate.

The plot takes on a comic angle throughout, and the Mikado would be the next and last character to make a reference to current events; he mentioned that any servant of his who failed to follow his commandments would be the next person to wash and scrub all of the local TRE trains in the metroplex.

Overall, the singing was full, powerful and high-reaching, though at 2 and a half hours it was a bit long for an operetta. Six young singers were out there, and there was even one ninja boy who promptly pulled down a white bandana over his eyes after Katisha tied it over his forehead, as if she had failed to tie it as rehearsed (all while staring straight ahead and holding a katana on open, flat palms). The set was sufficiently modern, with the background lights changing colors and patterns, and even displaying a big “Ko” when the namesake character first appeared. All in all, it had accomplished something that only the Fort Worth Opera can seem to wish for: a wacky and unexpected yet fresh and comical take on the usual antics of love triangles.

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