PRODUCER: Marie Bullen
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Sheila Halstead-Ingleby
PIANIST: Jocelyn Hipple
The Mikado of Japan: Jim Foster
Nanki-Poo: David Towers
Ko-Ko: Rodger McPhail
Pooh-Bah: Peter Silvester
Pish-Tush: George Leathard
Yum-Yum: Angela Dixon
Pitti-Sing: Helen Nye
Peep-Bo: Carys Sinclair
Katisha: Janet Thompson
This was our 25th anniversary production.
The Hornby Occasionals' silver jubilee performance, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, gave great pleasure to audiences in the newly-refurbished Hornby Institute.
Running to packed houses on four consecutive nights, the show revealed the wealth of talent – dramatic, musical and artistic – for which the society is noted.
Formed in 1982 to give occasional performances (hence the name) the group has performed the complete canon of G&S operettas, some of them more than once.
Producer, Marie Bullen, is to be congratulated on the imaginative stage work and choreography, full of humorous touches and well complemented by the gorgeous costumes and Rodger McPhail's superb sets.
Costumes and sets were made by members of the society, and the team also dealt with props, lighting, make-up, prompting, programme, front-of-house and publicity.
Musical direction was by Sheila Halstead-Ingleby, who trained the principals and chorus to a high standard, with piano by Jocelyn Hipple, whose talent and stamina in representing an entire orchestra are to be applauded.
Gilbert's customarily-contorted plot is set in the town of Titipu, due to be reduced to the rank of a village unless the public executioner carries out a beheading within a month. A problem this, since the only person currently under sentence of death is Koko, himself the Lord High Executioner.
Rodger McPhail (Koko) gave a lively and witty performance, adding topical references to the list of those deserving of execution, and producing real pathos in the sad tale of tit willow – with brilliant shadow puppetry to accompany.
Lord High Everything Else, Pooh-bah, was played with haughty disdain by Peter Sylvester, while David Towers, as tenor lead and heir-apparent to the Mikado of Japan, got the show off to a good start as a wandering minstrel, and ended it, as leading tenors usually do, by marrying the lead soprano, Yum-yum, sung to great effect by Angela Dixon.
James Foster showed gravitas as a superbly authoritative Mikado, and Janet Thompson brought rich, dark contralto tones to the role of Katisha, a lady of a certain age and an uncertain temperament who casts a cloud over Koko's future by agreeing to marry him. Other solo parts were well played by George Leathard (Pish-Tush), Helen Nye (Pitti-Sing) and – in her first solo role – Carys Sinclair (Peep-Bo).
The soloists were supported by a chorus of young (?) ladies and gentlemen of Japan whose wide age range reflects the value of a community-based society. The new facilities at Hornby Institute, including a bar area, provide a high quality context for entertainment, and the first night audience responded enthusiastically to a most enjoyable performance.