Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado in Iowa

Bonnie and I are just back from a five-day trip to Iowa and Minnesota. We had two reasons for the trip. The first was to see our daughter Laura in the University of Iowa Department of Performing Arts production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at the nicely restored Englert Theater in downtown Iowa City. The second was to then move Laura to Minneapolis for her upcoming internship in music therapy. We succeeded in meeting both objectives.

Being proud parents, we did as we did for Laura's high school musicals and saw The Mikado three times. By the third performance, we knew well when Laura, a member of the chorus, was on stage. She was easy to spot in her yellow kimono, singing and dancing through many scenes. She had no lines, but she had moments, such as when she helped braid Yum-Yum's hair and when she danced with a long red ribbon. I was reminded of her years in ballet, tap, and rhythmic gymnastics.

Sitting in the first, second, and third rows, we had a great view of the staging and choreography. I liked the repeated decorative use of colorful fans in the backdrops. The stage was relatively small, but the set designer used what there was well. The company was a whirl of color as it deftly moved about from left to front and back and forth. Most impressive was their snapping of fans along to the music. Laura said there was a lot of fan practice. Making them snap was not hard because of their weight, but holding on with sweaty hands was a trick.

Three days later, I still have the songs running through my brain. The words are often quite silly (as is the plot) but the melodies are great. A highlight was the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko's "I've got a little list" song, which by tradition is modified to include current and local subjects. There were many people who could be beheaded and not be missed, including the musical director for miscuing some notes, Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann for just being as they are, and anyone who stands behind TV reporters to wave.

We are back in Downers Grove now and returning to our everyday lives, but I think I'll have a little extra bounce as I hum Mikado melodies and recall fine performances.

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