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Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Marina Botha appears as Yum Yum)

Gilbert & Sullivan classic at Catalina Theatre from September 10 to 20.

What happens when you take six talented young Afrikaner students of opera, combine them with three equally talented young Black students of opera and dress them up to look Japanese in an English classic? Does it all sound too bizarre to be true? You’ll have to venture to the Catalina theatre on Wilson’s Wharf from September 10 to 20 to find out. Coming down to Durban from Pretoria this Michaelmas, these talented young singers accompanied by Engeli Le Roux will provide lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan a rare opportunity to hear The Mikado – in miniature.

This well loved G&S classic will be performed without a chorus with a cast of nine young singers. Adapted and directed from the original by former Durbanite Thinus Spies, now living and working in Pretoria and Johannesburg after completing his studies at the Tshwane University of Technology Opera School. Along with Thinus, Gertjan Holtzhausen and Deirdre van Schalkwyk are the other graduates in the production team. The rest of the cast are currently studying at the TUT and this tour to the Catalina is part of their practical exams for this year.

A perennial classic of the world’s light lyric stage, The Mikado (1885) is probably the most popular of the entire Gilbert and Sullivan oeuvre of satirical operettas that took British, and indeed international, audiences by storm in the late 19th century. It made fun of English bureaucracy, thinly disguised by a Japanese setting. The story focuses on a "cheap tailor," Ko-Ko who is promoted to the position of Lord High Executioner of the town of Titipu. Ko-Ko loves his ward, Yum-Yum, but she loves a musician, who is really the son of the emperor of Japan (the Mikado), and who is in disguise to escape the attentions of the elderly and amorous Katisha.

The Mikado has decreed that executions must resume without delay in Titipu. When news arrives that the Mikado will be visiting the town, Ko-Ko assumes that he is coming to ascertain whether Ko-Ko has carried out the executions. Too timid to execute anyone, Ko-Ko cooks up a conspiracy to misdirect the Mikado, which goes awry. Eventually, Ko-Ko must persuade Katisha to marry him, in order to save his own life and the lives of the other conspirators.

The Mikado became Gilbert and Sullivan’s longest-running hit, enjoying 672 performances at London’s Savoy Theatre, the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. The Mikado remains the most frequently performed of the Savoy Opera. It has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.

Singers appearing in The Mikado at Catalina include John Sibiya, Thabo Makgolo, Ndima Richard Ndzombane, Gertjan Holtzhausen, Marina Botha, Deidre van Schalkwyk, Annemarie Steenkamp, Hantro Botha and Tinus Spies. The highly accomplished pianist providing the show’s musical grounding is Engeli le Roux.

It is many years since Durban enjoyed the delights of a G & S show, so this one is not to be missed. Performances run from September 10 to 13, and again from September 17 to 20 with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 20h00 and Saturdays at 17h00 and 20h00 (Sundays at 14h00 and 18h00) Tickets cost R75 (matinees buy one get on free). Pensioners and students concessions are R40. Book now on 031 305 6889.