One of the perks of my job is watching a lot of theatrical productions, and I don’t just mean professional shows either.
I love amateur theatre, the shows are produced with professionalism and commitment, the enthusiasm is infectious and the camaraderie is wonderful.
Tring Festival Company is presenting The Hot Mikado at The Court Theatre in Tring next month and I recently attended a rehearsal where director Craig Allen, musical director Graham Thomson and choreographer Stephanie Jones were taking the cast through the full set of musical numbers.
The Hot Mikado takes the classic Gilbert and Sullivan tale and updates it to a new era. The original opened in London in 1885, and ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was one of the longest runs of any theatre piece until that time. In this production it is set in the 1950s with a clash between Japanese and American culture.
All the architecture is Japanese, but the cast are gangsters and molls and the music is no longer light opera but jazz, blues, swing, gospel and rock.
A musical comedy, the show focuses on Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son, who is in love with the beautiful Yum Yum. But she is betrothed to the Lord High Executioner, Koko.
This is a particularly special production for Craig, 34, because he acted in the show 20 years ago with Aylesbury Dramatic and Operatic Society as one of the gentlemen of Japan. Not only that, but Richard Carr, the actor who played the Hot Mikado in that production, is playing the title role again in this production.
Craig said: “Richard has come out of acting retirement to reprise the role. He’s really great, he’s still got the swagger and the persona of the character. He’s very welcoming to being directed and is open to slight variations.”
Richard is well known as a former Mix 96 breakfast presenter and now as managing director of Bucks TV internet television channel, and his return to acting comes after several years away from the stage.
Reprising a role he first played 20 years ago when his current director was just 14 has, he says, made him feel old, but he says he is better able to relate to the Mikado now because “I am old and fogey ish!”
Richard has an impressive stage pedigree and after many years in amateur theatre he worked in professional productions for several years at the old Civic Centre before the Waterside Theatre was built.
He said: “I was the breakfast presenter on Mix 96 and got invited to perform in the annual pantomimes. I worked alongside Britt Ekland and Bernie Clifton.”
He also played understudy to Paul Daniels, performing alongside Debbie McGee.
Of his return to the Mikado he said: “I’m excited and a bit nervous. Back in the day I was too laid back. It’s good to go out with some nerves because it gives you a bit of energy.”
The Hot Mikado is at the Court Theatre in Tring at 7.30pm from Tuesday May 23 to Friday May 26 and at 1.30pm and 6pm on Saturday May 27.
Tickets cost from £12 to £15. Book at www.courttheatre.co.uk or buy from Beechwood Fine Foods in Frogmore Street, Tring, or call 07543 560478.