By Steven Suskin
21 Oct 2012
Yes, it is cut down; but I usually find The Mikado overlong, anyway. And this is not just arbitrarily cut by some TV hack; Martyn Green, the renowned Savoyard, adapted and produced it. So it plays pretty well considering the time restraints. The supporting cast offers some welcome performances. Robert Rounseville — who several years earlier created the title role in Candide — makes a charming Nanki-Poo. Stanley Holloway is very much in evidence as Pooh-Bah, and the Katisha of the occasion is an extremely funny Helen Traubel.
For the Mikado they have enlisted Broadway veteran Dennis King, who starred in the 1920s operetta hits Rose-Marie and The Three Musketeers. King and Green appeared together in the ill-fated 1956 musical Shangri-La. Green looks quite fit in his on-camera introduction, belying the fact that six months earlier he was in an elevator accident in a parking garage which resulted in the emergency amputation of his leg on the grimy floor, apparently without anesthesia.
The staging is stylish, clever and pretty funny. True, this is a "Bell Telephone Hour" production, but it looks pretty good. (It was telecast in color, but all that seems to survive is the black & white kinescope from which this release derives.) Special features include the commercials from the original telecast — which are thankfully not permitted to interrupt the operetta — and a new audio commentary from Groucho-expert Dick Cavett, Barbara Meister (who plays Pitti-Sing), and Melinda Marx Leung, who at the age of 13 played Peep-Bo, one of those little maids from school. She comments that it was her father's lifelong dream to play Ko-Ko.
Visit PlaybillStore.com to check out theatre-related DVDs for sale.Continued...