Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Mikado

In 7th Grade, our music teacher Mrs. Muller decided to do a 7th-8th grade musical. She chose the Gilbert and Sullivan classic ‘The Mikado.’ The storyline is set in feudal Japan. The Mikado is the ruler of Japan, and his son, Nanki-Poo, is being forced to marry an elderly ugly lady Katisha (although she does have a very pretty elbow), so Nanki-Poo runs away and disguises himself as a wandering minstrel.

In the mean time, the Mikado decreed that flirting was a capital crime. In the city of Titipu, the authorities assigned the office of ‘Lord High Executioner’ to the tailor, Ko-Ko, a prisoner who was next in line to be executed for flirting, and he could "not cut off another's head until he cut his own off", and since Ko-Ko was not likely to try to execute himself, no executions could take place. However, all officials but the haughty Pooh-Bah proved too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, and Pooh-Bah now holds all their posts—and collects all their salaries.

Nanki-Poo, in his disguise, comes to Titipu and falls in love with Yum-Yum, one of the three maidens who are Ko-Ko’s wards, but Ko-Ko is supposed to marry Yum-Yum that very day. The other two maids are Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo.

There is a whole series of twists and turns where Ko-Ko arranges to pretend to kill Nanki-Poo just as the Mikado comes to claim his son, and when they discover that Ko-Ko has ‘killed’ Nanki-Poo, he is sentenced to die, and then there is more mixing up as Ko-Ko woos Katisha, and Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum marry and shown to be alive…It’s is a fun mix of satire, song, and intricate series of coincidences. From that time on, I’ve enjoyed the ‘coincidences’ that lead to craziness in films, plays, and real life. I do enjoy the irony of it all.

My friend Karland got to be the lead Ko-Ko, and Nick D was the Mikado. A couple others who were in there from my grade were Jenny Scheppers as Pitti-Sing, Kris Karrman as Peep-Bo. Anyone who was in choir was also in the chorus.

I got to play Pooh-Bah. I had a blast playing him. He was pompous, proud, clever, and a little to full of himself. I didn’t have to do a lot of acting with it; you have to admit, that describes me pretty well. Pooh-Bah’s part and lines are some of the funniest in the operetta. I love the scene where Pooh-Bah is talking to Ko-Ko in his role as Treasurer, and then doesn’t want the Treasurer to hear what is being said, so he, as Chief of Police, takes Ko-Ko across the stage so the ‘Treasurer’ doesn’t hear. I had a lot of fun with that.

I did learn something else about how I learn music. I actually have a pretty good ear for notes and key and so forth. We were given a tape of the songs we had to learn – this was when cassette tapes were a new technology. I listened to that tape of my songs time and time and time again. I learned my songs, but when I tried to sing it in the choir room, I could not find the notes to save my soul. I was singing what I had heard, and I was really frustrated with why I couldn’t. Mrs. Muller finally explained that the tape was in a different key from the music that we had. I could never make the adjustment to the music, and eventually had to ‘speak’ my singing role.

The other memory I have about the Mikado was actually away from the stage. Karland invited me to go on a church retreat - a Friday-Saturday with his youth group. While we were there, the pastor mentioned that Karland was in the musical and that we should all plan to go. He then asked Karland what his favorite part of ‘The Mikado’ was, and Karland said a line that led right into one of Jenny’s, who was also there, which cued me. It was a spontaneous moment, and we just fell into character.

The laughter I was able to get with Pooh-Bah continued my love of stage and getting people to laugh. I enjoyed the character, and, in all honesty, would love a chance to play him again.


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