GILBERT and Sullivan operas are a bit like plays by Oscar Wilde: totally familiar even when you thought you didn’t know them.
Just as you recite the plays word for word with the cast, with Gilbert and Sullivan - you know every number note for note.
As with all such shows it’s light-hearted and humorous frippery - in fact the story is complete nonsense - but that’s to entirely miss the point.
The important thing is, it’s a vehicle for uplifting musical numbers, and clever and droll lyrics.
This show staged at the Gaiety Theatre by the Manx Gilbert and Sullivan Society also included some amusing onstage buffoonery courtesy of director Val Cowley. Threatened with execution they prostrate themselves on the ground bobbing up in turn to protest their innocence while an obese Pooh-Bah, like a stranded whale, tries with difficulty to roll over.
An impressive array of bright oriental costumes added to the atmosphere while the fans were used to great effect, snapped open with the viciousness of a flick knife by Katisha and The Mikado.
There was a clever modern-day slant on some of the lyrics too - notably Ko-Ko’s ‘Little List’ of pet hates, specially updated for the 21st Century to include teenagers with i-pods who can text without getting out of bed.
This was complemented by excellent performances from the cast.
These included Simon Fletcher as Ko-Ko, a golf club wielding dandy promoted beyond his ability or expectation to the role of Lord High Executioner, and Geoff Collier, a veteran of 26 principal roles, as the corpulent Pooh-Bah.
A stately Andrew Williamson was The Mikado and Timothy Markham the fey, ineffectual and love-lorn Nanki-Poo.
Sarah Elder was the variously betrothed Yum-Yum, twittering and demure right up to the point where she faced being buried alive - because, as everyone knows, a wife must be buried with her executed husband. Denise Groenewald’s Katisha provided a striking contrast as the ‘Daughter-in-law Elect’ - a vision of self-righteous fury intent on reclaiming a hapless Nanki-Poo as her groom.
I usually enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan - it transports me back to 1979, cleaning shoes on a Sunday morning ready for school the next day, with the strains of my parents’ Dansette record player in the background. This was no exception: it made me laugh out loud at times and I was not alone.