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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

'Mikado' Mixes Good Singing With Hilarity

Comedy Tonight is staging the popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in three cities.

August 29, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When a group of Japanese settled in Knightsbridge, their most un-British dress and customs drew the attention of Londoners, always looking for a new fad to follow. Soon enough, they drew the attention of William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, always looking for a new way to satirize the establishment. The match was perfect, and in 1885, Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado" was an immediate success on the London stage.

In the ensuing years, "The Mikado" has become the most frequently staged of Gilbert & Sullivan's operettas, claimed in some quarters to be the most popular ever written.

And so, it comes to Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and eventually Ojai, in a production by the local Comedy Tonight Productions.

Nanki-Poo, handsome son of the all-powerful Mikado, has been set up to marry the old woman, Katisha. But he has fallen for the more desirable Yum-Yum, who is betrothed to her guardian, Ko-Ko, a haberdasher who has been appointed Lord High Executioner. The objective for all is a happy ending, in which nobody has seen the flash of the executioner's "snickerty-snee."

Alternately aiding and frustrating the situation is Pooh-Bah, who has assumed virtually every local position of influence except that of executioner. Hilarity and some good singing ensue.

Heading the capable troupe are Greg Wood, who plays Ko-Ko as if he were Nathan Lane (and it works); Thomas Mesmer and either Heidi Goodspeed or Patricia Lathrop-McPherson as young lovers Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum; and Gabriel Vega as the comically corrupt Pooh-Bah.

Rebecca Hanes directed; Maggie White choreographed; and musical director-pianist Karen Medrano and percussionist Larry English supply the effective live accompaniment.

* "The Mikado" continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights and 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons through Sept. 15 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Road in Thousand Oaks. Tickets for all performances are $10 adults, $9 seniors, and $8 children under 12, with group rates available. The play is scheduled to move to the Simi Valley Cultural Center for Sept. 20-22, and the Ojai Center for the Arts for Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6. For reservations (recommended) or further information, call 389-3193.

*

Frothy farce: Silliness is the operative emotion in "A Gentleman and a Scoundrel," directed by Martin Horsey at the Marquie Dinner Theater in Camarillo.

Fred Dixon, a mild-mannered functionary in a large, faceless corporation, wants two things from supervisor Jenny Correll: (1) a raise, and (2) marriage. There will be none of either, as far as she is concerned, and she immediately develops a crush on Rick Laredo, the tall Texan she discovers one day in Fred's apartment.

She then offers Rick a job as Fred's assistant. There's one complication: Fred and "Rick" are, for reasons too convoluted to explain here, the same person. And that's just Act I.

Playwright Jack Sharkey is an expert at frothy comedies, and has expertly managed to eliminate anything resembling subtlety or a message (other than the old one about the grass being greener when it's Texas grass, or something like that) in this fast-paced and funny farce.

Mark Sawyer plays Fred and the gawky, awkward (he's not used to those boots) mock Texan Rick in a way that's a bit reminiscent of the young Dick Van Dyke. Valerie Belardinelli is somewhat more restrained as Jenny, but no less hilarious as she--literally--lets her hair down in an attempt at attracting the new cowpoke in town. Aaron Van Etten appears briefly, and to good effect, as a company accountant, investigating why Fred's bank deposits have suddenly more than doubled (because he's depositing Rick's paycheck, of course).

* "A Gentleman and a Scoundrel" continues Thursday-Saturday evenings through Sept. 28 at the Marquie Dinner Theater, 340 N. Mobil Avenue, Camarillo. Doors for all shows open at 6:30 p.m., dinner is served beginning at 6:45, and the show begins at 8:15. Tickets are $28 Friday and Saturday; $26 Thursday; and $24 Thursday nights for seniors only. Admission includes the show, buffet dinner, nonalcoholic beverages, tax and tip; a full cash bar is available. For reservations or further information, call 484-9009.

*

No place like Oz: Just a few miles away, at the auditorium on the Camarillo Airport grounds, the Camarillo Community Theater's production of "The Wizard of Oz" concludes this weekend. Cost cutting abounds, from the threadbare set to the use of prerecorded orchestral tracks, but the songs from the 1939 MGM film can't be beat, and there are worthy performances by a cast headed by Jenny Cariker as Dorothy, Bill Ellstrom as the Scarecrow, John Lordan as the Tin Woodsman, and Andy Brasted as the Cowardly Lion. Meredith Bryant directs, Kelly Johnston is the choreographer. This may be your last chance to see a production of "The Wizard of Oz" in Ventura County until Comedy Tonight's production, announced for next May.

* "The Wizard of Oz" closes Sunday at the Camarillo Airport Theater, 330 Skyway Drive on the Camarillo Airport grounds. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 Sunday afternoon. Tickets are $10, $8 senior, students and active military, and $5 children under 12. For reservations or further information, call 388-5716.

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