Lyric’s ‘Mikado’: Some very inspired silliness

BOSTON — There is something to be said for two and a half hours of inspired silliness.
“The Mikado,” now playing at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, in the most beloved of the comic operettas of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The duo satirized the values and attitudes of 1880s England in a most entertaining and witty way, often drawing upon exotic locales, as they did in “The Mikado.”
Lyric’s successful production here starts with Janie Howland’s lovely design of a Japanese courtyard, which draws the audience into the show from the outset in the intimate setting, and Rafael Jaen’s colorful costumes.

Bob Jolly as Ko-Ko, Erica Spyres as Yum-Yum and Davron S. Monroe
as Nanki-Poo in Lyric Stage’s “The Mikado.”

Director Spiro Veloudos is at the top of his game in his handling of the material, showing respect for the music and characters while considering the text to be much more malleable. Where some of what was then contemporary satire of English mores in the 1880s doesn’t exactly ring true today, Veloudos and Company have taken the liberty of adding plenty of references to today’s politics and culture in the additional lyrics generated by Deb Poppel, Bob Jolly, who plays the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko,. and music director Jonathan Goldberg.
Thus there are references to reality TV, Starbucks, disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Homeland Security, political hacks, texters, etc, etc.
Many of the references come courtesy of Jolly, delightfully dead-pan as Ko-Ko, and his hilarious rendition of “I’ve Got a Little List” as he rattles off a whole list of people he’d like to rid society of in his role as executioner. “They’ll none of ‘em be missed,” he sneers.
Veloudos has also assembled a cast full of glorious voices. Erica Spyres and Davron S. Monroe were two of the best thing about last spring’s Lyric Stage smash-hit production of “Avenue Q,” and they’re back as the delicious maiden Yum-Yum (pun intended) and the scheming Nanki-Poo, the wandering minstrel who really isn’t a wandering minstrel.
They shine as they discuss all the things they could do if flirting weren’t outlawed and Yum-Yum wasn’t betrothed to Ko-Ko in “Were I not to Ko-Ko Plighted.”
David Kravitz as Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, is the very essence of a pompous government “hack.” The scene where he switches hats from moment to moment to give Ko-Ko advice from all different angles is hilarious.
In keeping with the political theme, after he reads a missive from the Mikado, he adds “I am the Mikado and I approved this message.”
The production’s real scene-stealer is Leigh Barrett as the older woman Katisha, jilted by Nanki-Poo and extracting her own glorious revenge with her magnificent voice.
There are the requisite dizzying number of comic twists and turns in the second-act plot, when Nanki-Poo is revealed not to be a wandering minstrel at all, but the son of The Mikado, played with comic imperiousness by Timothy John Smith as The Mikado, as slippery and oily a despot as you could imagine.
It all adds up to a delightful evening of theater and some very inspired silliness.
“The Mikado,” by Gilbert and Sullivan, through Oct. 13 at the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Directed and staged by Spiro Veloudos. Music direction by Jonathan Goldberg. At the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St., Boston..