How do you solve the problem of a shortage of young men and women?
A bit of imagination goes a long way as shown in Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s production of The Mikado this week.
With the young males in the pub and the girls at Lady Manners School disco, director Angela Robinson has roped in society veterans masquerading as dinner ladies, bridge players and stooges planted in the audience to compensate.
This simple solution works a treat - the spectators at Bakewell’s Medway Centre love it and the cast play along with it. Chorus member Liz McKenzie sticks rubber gloves into the sash of her kimono, Chris Kraushaar is a beat or so behind his fellow noblemen’s opening routine and Richard Simmonds in the role of The Mikado reads part of his script from the back of a fan.
Facebook and X-Factor get a couple of name checks while Ko-Ko’s not so little list references the Peak Park Planning Board, conservation officers and plans for a supermarket in Bakewell.
Pooh-Bah is elevated to the newly created role of High Sheriff of High Peak to add to his extensive credits.
And this must be the first time selfies have appeared in a G&S production as Yum-Yum and Peep-Bo capture the preparations for the former’s wedding.
Real-life schoolgirls Lizzy Blades and Liddy Buswell are shunning the disco to play the roles of Yum-Yum and Peep-Bo, aided by the slightly older Susan Devaney as Pitti-Sing - all performing a delightful rendition of Three Little Maids.
This is Lizzy’s first lead role with the company and she shines in her characterisation of the comically vain bride-to-be with a golden singing voice.
Her opposite number Andrew Moore brings the likeability factor and good singing to the part of Nanki-Poo, son of The Mikado who masquerades as a wandering minstrel.
Nic Wilson displays his trademark superlative performance skills in characterising Ko-Ko, playing him as a Yorkshireman and milking as much comedy out of the role as he can.
He’s aided and abetted by Max Taylor as the scheming Pooh-Bah who appoints himself boss of everything and raises a chuckle with his “despicable me” line.
Cathreen Henwood plays the formidable old maid Katisha, with a head-dress that looks like a cross between a jazzed-up TV aerial and an insect’s antennae which she trains on the poor subjects who dare to cross her.
There’s some glorious singing, particularly the madrigal Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day which was beautifully sung at the production last night (Friday, June 12).
The nine-strong orchestra provide sensitive accompaniment and musical director Melanie Gilbert has a rare spoken line to deliver as part of this ingenious production.
The Mikado winds up its run at the Medway Centre this evening, starting at 7.30pm.