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Modern Touches Enliven NYGSP’s Mikado



As I walked into the lovely Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College to see a new production of the 2015 revision of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1895 comic operetta, The Mikado, by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, I overheard the conversation of a couple in their thirties. Not only had they never seen The Mikado. They also didn’t know who Danny Kaye was. Sigh.

This, of course, is the problem for a lot of pre-modern theater.  People don’t know these shows like they did sixty or more years ago.  At least Gilbert and Sullivan’s shows were so popular in their day that they have spawned preservation societies like this one, intent on keeping their work alive. But it clearly is a  challenge to make a show stuffed with dated nineteenth century references, and language as dense as Hamilton  but even more remote, seem accessible to a modern audience. 

Yet another even greater challenge to producers of The Mikado is that it is set in Japan. So it is traditionally performed by Anglo actors in Asian dress and stylized makeup, something which would raise a lot of cultural hackles today.  

Both these problems are addressed in this production by some very ingenious work by director and choreographer David Auxier-Loyola.  To start, he has written a prologue for the play which describes the actual events that inspired the writing of the show. It serves the purpose to set the scene.

At rise, we see Gilbert (a rather stiff Mr. Auxier-Loyola) and Sullivan (the wonderful David Macaluso) trying to wrestle the egos of their leading actors. The team had a successful play running at the Savoy Theater, Princess Ida, and producer D’Oylye Carte (Matthew Wages) wanted another show ready to follow it.  But the team was blocked. Gilbert wanted to write a fantasy piece. Sullivan wanted a show with a “consistent” plot, and characters who sang appropriate songs instead of whatever witty ditty Gilbert penned.  

The presence of an exhibition in London of Japanese artifacts  (and an apocryphal story about getting hit on the head by a sword falling off the wall) leads to Gilbert getting knocked out and dreaming up the world of The Mikado. That world is a fantasy Japonesque setting which is clearly British underneath. The members of their acting company, still Anglo in appearance, play the various roles of the show, with pseudo-Asian, English-based nonsense names like Nanky-Poo, which is a child’s Briticism for a handkerchief , and Pish –Tush which means…well, Pish Tush!

The primary reason to set The Mikado in Japan was so Gilbert and Sullivan could safely poke fun at the British government and Victorian social mores. To make sure we understand that, and solve the cultural problem, Mr. Auxier-Loyola, with his excellent design team of Anshuman Bhatia (sets),  Quinto Ott (costumes) and  Benjamin Weill (lighting) have created a Victorian milieu overlaid with Asian visual elements.  The women wear dresses with bustles, but have winged shoulders that appear to have escaped from The King and I. There is a very western looking train station backed by a scenic vista that looks like a Japanese print.  It all works together quite brilliantly.

To lead us into the story, Gilbert becomes one of the Men of the Town, only later to appear as himself again to resolve the quite preposterous plot twist at the end of the story. The plot of The Mikado is a paper thin lunacy engineered so Gilbert and Sullivan can make jokes about English society and book-end their signature patter songs.   

Nanky-Poo, sung by sweet-voiced John Charles McGlaughlin, comes to town posing as “A Wandring Minstel, I”, which is one of the song titles most remembered from this show.  He is in love with the virginal and beautiful Yum-Yum, played by the truly delicious-looking and frequently funny soprano, Sarah Caldwell-Smith.  But Yum-Yum is betrothed to her guardian, the tailor Ko-Ko, brilliantly brought to life by the Chaplin-esque singing comedian, David Macaluso.  His performance is a Broadway caliber, high energy turn, worth seeing the show for by itself.

By royal decree, all flirting has been declared punishable by death.  This was the authors’ swipe against Victorian prudery.  Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting, but the town leaders don’t want any bloodshed.  So they appoint Ko-Ko as Lord High Executioner, assuming it would be too difficult to cut off his own head.  Also, all the town leaders get rolled into one greedy persona, Pooh-Bah, who is wickedly and artfully played by Matthew Wages like a comedic Sybil on serious drugs, inhabited by seven different wacky personalities.

Amy Maude Helfer, Sarah Caldwell Smith, Rebecca L. Hargrove in The Mikado

Yum-Yum is one of three sisters, the others played by Jessie Bond and Sybil Grey, who together sing the well-known “Three Little Girls from School.”  Oddly, this number, which was conceived for three girls from the D’Oylye Carte Company who were equally small, is played by three girls of very different sizes, Ms. Bond seeming very tall indeed next to the others; which killed the sight gag.

The fly in the ointment of the plot is Katisha, an elderly lady in love with Nanki-Poo, from whom he ran away. She is played with real fury, expert comic timing, and unexpectedly genuine emotion by the powerful Caitlin Burke. When she comes to town to claim Nanky-Poo, a very convoluted plot follows in which he may or may not actually be killed.  It’s all to please the Mikado, played by the show’s producer, and excellent bass-baritone, David Wannen.  

To make the jokes tickle modern funny bones, the company takes great liberties with Gilbert’s lyrics, inserting jabs at everything from texting girls to our own political circus. I was surprised to learn they were mostly adlibbed or written by each of the cast members, with no authorial credit given. Kudos to all the witty talents on the stage, because these gags were highlights of the show for me. 

That, however, showcases the main problem with reviving this show. A lot of the original text is still very creaky, and the songs are densely packed with words that are hard on modern ears. The comprehensibility problem was greatly exacerbated by terrible sound mixing. Neither I, nor the people around me as close as the sixth row, could properly hear and understand several of the principals over the orchestra much of the time.  The voices were so different in strength that I was convinced the show wasn’t amplified at all. I was told there’s no sound designer, and they have to use the union guy whose contract runs with the theater. Somebody should wake him up.

On top of that, conductor, music director and company founder Albert Bergeret is apparently so overly familiar with the words of these songs he doesn’t seem to realize how bad the diction of his chorus is (although it did get generally better in the second act.) The tendency of opera singers to make every vowel a “shwah” on top of British accents doesn’t help. Give me the musical theater, where people singing in their native language are expected to be understood.   It doesn’t help either that the faces of the chorus often looked carved from wood.  

In my opinion, if you have to hear the album before you come see the show to understand the lyrics, whether this show or Little Jagged Pill  (whose chorus also needs diction lessons), it’s a problem that should have been addressed

One very special treat of the evening was hearing the live orchestra of twenty-five players, who sounded quite lovely under Mr. Bergeret’s baton. 

So if you’re already a devoted fan of  Gilbert and Sullivan, and know the show, none of that will matter. Come enjoy it.  If not, you’re bound to enjoy the performers anyway.  Just sit close enough to hear them. 

Jeffery Lyle Segal is a multifaceted theater artist who has worn many professional hats. He started as a musical theater performer in his teens. He attended Stanford U., Northwestern University, and SUNY at Binghamton to study acting, directing and dramatic literature. He also wrote theater reviews for The Stanford Daily and was Arts Editor of WNUR Radio at Northwestern. After college, he is proud to have been the first full time Executive Director of Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company. He left them to work as a theater actor and director. His special effects makeup skills got him into the movies, working on the seminal cult horror film, Re-Animator.He also did casting for several important Chicago projects, sometimes wearing both production hats, as he did on Chicago’s most famous independent movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While living in Los Angeles, he joined the Academy for New Musical Theater, where he developed two book musicals as a composer, lyricist and librettist, Down to Earth Girl (formerly I Come for Love, NYMF 2008), and Scandalous Behavior! (York Developmental Reading Series 2010). He wrote, produced and performed his song “Forever Mine” as the end title theme of the horror film, Trapped! He also has written songs for his performances in cabaret over the years, and the time he spent pursuing country music in Nashville. Most recently he created a musical revue, Mating the Musical, for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival 2016. In NYC, he has attended the BMI musical theater writers’ workshop, and the Commercial Theater Institute 14 week producer program. He is currently creating a company to develop new musicals online. He still keeps up his makeup chops, working with top doctors in NYC and Chicago as one of the country’s most highly regarded permanent cosmetic artists ( and as a member of Chicago local IATSE 476.


The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

WES’ ASTEROID — (Via World of Reel) Last we heard about “Asteroid City,” it had been rated R for “Brief Graphic Nudity.” Of course, Focus decided to appeal the MPAA designation. The aim is PG-13, as they want this film seen by as many heads as possible, and rightfully so.

Last year, Focus Features bought “Asteroid City” for domestic distribution. They released an ambiguous synopsis in the process, but now we have a new, more-detailed synopsis:

Thousands of years ago an asteroid fell from the sky, creating a huge crater, in the centercentre of which a piece of asteroid rock remains. Once a year, a convention is held on the site, attracting astronomers, teachers, families with would-be teenage astronomers – as well as military personal personnel. As the stars begin to align, events occur which are startling, and completely unexpected. This is Anderson at his comic best; it is also suffused with the grief caused by the death of the mother of one of the families – giving the film a profound emotional impact.

Some on-set photos had also been revealed (before being taken down by Focus Features). They all contained the meticulous attention to detail that we expect from Anderson, but set in the 1950’s.

The star-studded cast features Tom Hanks and Margot Robbie in their Anderson film debuts, plus Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Grace Edwards, Aristou Meehan, Sophia Lillis, Ethan Lee, Jeff Goldblum and Rita Wilson.

How many of these are we thinking will be cameos? Oh, and where’s Bill Murray? Did his scenes get snipped after last year’s #MeToo incident? They claim it’s because he had COVID and got recast.

Even stranger, Murray was livestreamed at the last NYFF alongside Anderson, Adrian Brody, and others from the set of “Asteroid City”. Not only that, he’s the one who revealed the title of the film during a BFI Q&A last November.

“Asteroid City,” which wrapped production last October, and will be released June 23rd. A Cannes premiere is practically sealed for this one.

Here’s the trailer:

Generation Sex

GENERATION SEX — Sex Pistols and Generation X supergroup Generation Sex will play their first ever headline UK show in Wolverhampton this summer.

Singer Billy Idol and bassist Tony James, guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook will play The Civic at The Halls in Wolverhampton on Monday 10th July 2023.

The one-off headline UK show follows Generation Sex’s eagerly awaited performance at the Iggy Pop headlined Dog Day Afternoon at London’s Crystal Palace Park on Saturday 1st July.

The Dog Day Afternoon line-up also boasts Blondie, Buzzcocks and Lambrini Girls. Tickets are on sale from Planet Rock Tickets now.

Generation Sex made their live debut at The Roxy in West Hollywood in October 2018 where they performed a setlist of Sex Pistols and Generation X songs, plus a spitting cover of ‘My Way.’

The band also play European festival shows this summer at France’s Hellfest, Belgium’s Graspop, Norway’s Tons of Rock, and Kaisaniemen Puisto in Finland.

Joe Cocker

SHORT TAKESCelebrity-scribe Mark Bego’s next book is indeed on legendary rocker Joe Cocker and will be out for the holidays via Yorkshire Publishing

Procol Harum

Keith Reid,  who co-wrote the lyrics for most of Procol Harum’s original songs, died March 23 of cancer … The Micky Dolenz Celebrates The Monkesstour opens  tonight in Orlando, Florida …

Ricki Lee Jones/Pirates

Somehow we missed it, but Ricki Lee Jones is at NYC’s Birdland next week in support of her new Russ Titelman-produced new album Pieces of Treasure. The pair worked together on the classic album Pirates in 1982. A gem of a performer, the album documented her break-up with Tom Waits and was simply stunning. I listened to it for hours on end.  I hope I can catch one of the performances. Check out this interview with Jones on WBGO:

Ruth Chris’ Steak House

SIGHTING: WOR’s Tom Cuddy and PR-maven David Salidor at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a farewell meal. The hallowed NY-eatery closes next week … Just saw a great TV-segment on NBC’s Todayon Gold Rush Vinyl and their Caren Kelleher who spoke quite specifically and eloquently about her hand in returning vinyl to a prominent force in the record biz. Those in the know will certainly agree about the merits of vinyl, as opposed to digital, but the one element seriously missing from the piece to me, was about the creative process. Face it, even before one decides to go vinyl, or not, the song, the creative material has got to be there. As industry-seer Steve Leeds always says (and he’s damn right)  A good song … is a good song. It starts from there … I was listening to a very recent Eric Clapton podcast and he revealed that in June he was going to be recording with Tom Jones! He also said that he and Jones used to pal around in the 60’s. Wow, who knew that?  … HBO premieres White House Plumbers on Monday, May 1. I’ve seen the trailer a bunch of times and it’s priceless; especially if you lived through it as I have. Also, bravo to 10 Years After’s “I Love To Change The World” which fits in so, so perfectly. Here’s the trailer:

Happy Bday Susan Hathaway; Warren Beatty and Mr. Clapton!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Bill Nieves; Brad LeBeau; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Steve Walter; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Charles Rosenay; Zach Martin; Steve Leeds; Bruce Haring; Mark Bego; Kent Kotal; Dan Zelinski; Kent & Laura Denmark; Melinda Newman; Joe Lynch; Radcliffe Joe; Andy Kent; Michael Lippman; Don Wardell; Markos Papdatos; Angela Tarantino; and CHIP!
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Did you Know Andrea Bocelli and Hauser Performed Live In Times Square?



Celebrating the release The Journey: A Music Special from Andrea Bocelli, Andrea Bocelli and Hauser performed Melodramma Live in Times Square.

Combining world-class musical performances with intimate conversations across the awe-inspiring Italian countryside, The Journey: A Music Special from Andrea Bocelli is an exploration of the moments that define us, the songs that inspire us, and the relationships that connect us to what matters most. You can see this film produced by Fantom events April 2 – 9. You can get tickets here.

Watch Bocelli and his wife Veronica travel on horseback along Italy’s Via Francigena, an ancient road traveled by pilgrims for centuries in the footsteps of the apostles and saints. Along the way, they are joined by friends Michael W. Smith, Tori Kelly, Tauren Wells, and TAYA for world-class musical performances in some of Italy’s most magnificent venues and majestic locations.

Following a blessing from the Pope, Bocelli’s children Matteo and Virginia make appearances in this amazing adventure, as well as musicians and singers Katherine Jenkins, Clara Barbier Serrano, 2Cellos, 40 Fingers, and many others.



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The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

HERE’S BEKKA — (from Rolling Stone)  Bekka Bramlett grew up around John Lennon and George Harrison, but nothing could prepare her for joining Fleetwood Mac in 1994, during one of the rockiest periods in the band’s history.

In the summer of 1994, Fleetwood Mac hit the road without Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, or Christine McVie. In the three singers’ spots, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie placed Traffic’s Dave Mason, rockabilly singer Billy Brunette, and Bekka Bramlett — the 26-year-old daughter of late-Sixties/early-Seventies rock icons Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett.
“We ended up with a bunch of talented people playing good music, but they should not have been touring as Fleetwood Mac,” Mick Fleetwood wrote in his 2014 memoir Play On. “There were too many essential pieces missing from the machine this time. We were a totally different band, with only the original drummer andbass player, and our original name.”

The Bekka Bramlett incarnation of Fleetwood Mac released a single album, 1995’s Time, before dissolving the next year to make way for a lucrative Hells Freezes Over-style reunion album and tour by the classic Rumours lineup. This period of the band may seem like little more than a footnote to some rock fans, but it was a pivotal time for Bramlett, and she looks back on it without any regrets.

“I knew my job was to get Stevie back,” she tells Rolling Stone from her home in Nashville. “I wasn’t a moron. I also knew this was a dangerous job when I took it. I knew I was facing tomatoes. But I didn’t want to wear a top hat. I didn’t want to twirl around. I wanted to be me. I even dyed my hair brown just so people in the cheap seats would know that Stevie wasn’t going to be here. I didn’t want anyone to be discouraged or let down.”

Joining Fleetwood Mac at 26 would have been a shock to the system of most singers, but Bramlett had been living in close proximity to rock stars her entire life. When she was very young, her parents toured and recorded with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and many other A-list rock stars, winning renown as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Those artists also spent a lot of time at her mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Bramlett didn’t realize any of this was unusual until she boarded the school bus one morning gripping her Disney Princess lunchbox. “This other little girl had a Beatles lunchbox,” she says. “I said to her, ‘I know him. He’s on our couch right now.’ I pointed to George Harrison. ‘I know him too.’ I pointed to John. She started hitting me since she thought I was lying. I was petrified and confused. I thought they were just Daddy’s friends that had accents.”

When she was just four years old, her father recruited Bekka and her sister Suzanne to sing background vocals on his song “California Rain.” “My mom had to get some gaffer tape to keep the headphones on my head since I was so little,” she says. “I used to hate the way it sounds, and now I love it so much. It’s so endearing.”

Right around this time, her parents split up, and she went to live with her father and grandmother. “It was weird, since mostly the moms got the babies back then,” she says. “But my parents were alcoholics. My grandmother never even smoked cigarettes or said cuss words. She brought us to church every Sunday, Wednesday, and Monday. We were in safe hands with our grandmother. I think both of my parents trusted that.”

Delaney and Bonnie both struggled to find solo success in the Seventies, and they dealt with significant substance abuse issues, but Bekka inherited their talents, and she knew from a young age that she’d devote her life to music. “I briefly thought I’d be a lawyer, but I thought I’d be a singing lawyer,” she says. “Then I wanted to be a jockey since I love horses, but I thought I’d be a singing jockey. Music is just what I’m good at.”

As a teenager with a fake ID in the early Eighties, Bramlett spent many nights checking out bands on the Sunset Strip. “I remember standing on the side of the stage as Guns N’ Roses played,” she says. “Seeing it up close, I was like, ‘This is why you never try heroin.’ But then I’d go into the audience and be like, ‘This is why you join a rock & roll band!’”

Just a terrific story and interview from Stone’s Andy Greene. You can read the rest of the interview here:
Interestingly enough, I found that Fleetwood Mac Time album very, very enjoyable – not only for the new members of Mac, but for Dave Mason’s reflective “I Wonder Why,” Christine McVie’s perfect “Nights in Estoril” and the track “These Strange Days,” which features Mick Fleetwood’s first-ever vocal.
It certainly wasn’t the hit Rumors was, or even Tusk for that matter, but reflected a re-jiggering of the group; which was pretty good in my book.
Billy Burnette and Dave Mason replaced Buckingham, which led to the oft-spoken comment: it took 2 guitarists to replace Lindsey.
Great piece by Andy Greene.

SUCCESSION — (via Deadline) The Roys are back with a vengeance. The Season 4 premiere of Succession drew an audience of 2.3M on Sunday across HBO Max and linear telecasts, which is a series high for same-day viewers. Total viewing for Sunday night was up 62% compared to Season 3’s premiere viewership of 1.4M in October 2021. At the time, that marked the best premiere night performance of any HBO original series since HBO Max launched in May 2020. Sunday’s viewership is also up about 33% from the Season 3 finale’s 1.7M. Season 3 averaged about 7.2M viewers per episode, according to HBO.HBO also says that all previous seasons of succession saw a 4x increase in viewership in the week leading up to the Season 4 premiere, compared to the week prior.

The Roy family saga picks up as the sale of media conglomerate Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) looms. The prospect of the seismic sale provokes existential angst and familial division among the Roys: patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his four grown children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Siobhan (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck). A hopefully Roy-esque power struggle will ensue as the family weighs up a future where their cultural and political weight is threatened.

Succession has 13 Emmys including Best Drama Series wins for its Season 2 and Season 3, the latter of which premiered in 2021.

We had mentioned earlier that most of the  advance reviews said the writing was the star of the premiere episode and I definitely agree. Creator Jesse Armstrong wrote it and delivered just a stellar job. The episode began with a grumpy-Brian Cox at his birthday and took a few moments to develop into the powerhouse it has become, but it was very, very enjoyable.

Sure some of the dialogue  and plot harked back to earlier episodes, but it’s so good, you hardly noticed. And the ending with Shiv and Tom, alone at at home and contemplating their futures, was just splendid and reeked of the amazing emotion the show almost always conjures up. A class act all around.

SHORT TAKES — London’s Guardian gave the new Keifer Sutherland steaming-series Rabbit Hole a pretty stellar review. Love Keifer and love Charles Dance. And newcomer Meta Golding received a rave as well. Check it out here: Ant-Man and Creed III star Jonathan Majors has a major problem. Saturday night he was arrested for violence with his supposed girlfriend in a cab going from a bar in Brooklyn to NYC. A commercial he did for the Army has already been pulled. The papers in Manhattan have been all over his story and one poster said: Innocent or not; the damage is already done. Sad for sure. He portrays Kang in the next several Marvel-movies, so we’ll see what happens. I wonder what bar in Brooklyn he was at? There are some rough ones out there for sure …
Donnie Kehr’s terrific new album Beautiful Strange is out now on CD …

Jennifer Coolidge

Variety confirmed this week, that the locale of the next White Lotus, from Mike White, will be Thailand. Now, if we could only get Jennifer Coolidge back … Congrats to New York Independenteditor Keith F. Girard on his second novel –

Keith F. Girard’s The Curse of Northam Bay

just out: The Curse of Northam Bay …PR-pasha David Salidor was interviewed by Charles Rosenay for Monkee Mania Radio … Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer open July 21 and it is indeed 3 hours.

Cillian Murphy

It stars Cillian Murphy and the trailer looks rather stupendous. Check it out here:

Happy Bday Steven Tyler and Diana (Miss) Ross!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Alex Salzman; Jeff Smith; Dino Danelli; Bill Amendola; Maria Milito; Steve Walter; Melissa Davis; Anthony Noto; Deb Caponetta; Christine Nagy; Jim Farber; Kent Denmark; Jane Ayer; Toby Mamis; Howard Bloom; Brad LeBeau; and BELLA!
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