This summer, Lamplighters Music Theatre will present Gilbert & Sullivan’s masterpiece 'The New Mikado' in theatres throughout the Bay Area.
This new production will be moved from the traditional setting of a fictitious Japanese village to a re-imagined Renaissance Italy, the home of rapid cultural exchange, scientific advancement and artistic creativity, the tradition of commedia dell’arte, and the favored setting for many of Shakespeare’s greatest creations.
Performances will be held at the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First Street, Livermore on Sat., Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.
With its plot line, dialogue, memorable characters and music, The Mikado is very possibly the most popular musical comedy in the English language. It represents a playful satire of the timeless and universal frailties of our shared human nature.
In a time when flirting was a capital offense, wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo has fallen in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum, fiancée to the recently appointed Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko. When the honored Lord Mikado demands the execution of Ko-Ko, and Nanki-Poo volunteers to take Ko-Ko’s place under the condition that he first be allowed to marry Yum-Yum, chaos, desperation, and comical mayhem ensue in classic Gilbert and Sullivan style, with impromptu marriages, forged death certificates, and the revelation of a prince in disguise.
This will be the Lamplighters’ 22nd production of The Mikado since 1953. It will be directed by Ellen Brooks, and conducted by Resident Music Director, Baker Peeples. Single tickets will be on sale in June.
A letter sent out by the Lamplighters explained the change: "There has always been some controversy about The Mikado, but the cultural and political climate of today’s world is not that of even just a few years ago. We have seen the controversy intensify: in 2014 the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society saw widespread protests against their 'yellow-face' production; and last year the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players felt obliged to cancel their production of The Mikado because of a public outcry.
"With an eye towards inclusion, we reached out to various Japanese and Asian Bay Area organizations and scholars, as well as to the local Asian performing community, in the hopes of encouraging discussion, collaboration, and increased interest in our auditions. Instead of the hoped-for partnerships, these efforts attracted intense opposition, and ultimately resulted in threats of local and national protest, escalating to the point where we were confronted with the imminent loss of our San Francisco venue. This risked the survival of our company.
"Our response was to make the decision to remove the exotic lens of Japan from this production, and to replace it with a different exotic lens – that of Renaissance Italy – the backdrop for many of Shakespeare’s greatest works.
"We are enthusiastic about looking at this classic masterpiece through a different lens – at presenting The Mikado that we all know and love, without offending anyone in our community."