Once upon a time, a mysterious stranger walked into a bar. Sassy songs and flirting with pretty women ensued. Then came plans for a wedding. And an execution.
We have here “The Mikado,” Gilbert & Sullivan’s immortal operetta — except this time it’s set in a saloon with a bunch of cowboys and cowgirls as “The Wild West Mikado,” played to the hilt by the Readers Theatre Plus cast and crew at the Olympic Theatre Arts Gathering Hall.
Dewey Ehling, director of the straight “Mikado” last summer, is bringing the spoof to the stage tonight through next weekend with his right-hand woman Carol Swarbrick Dries as staging assistant director.
“When we learned last summer that this show had been written, both Carol and I got excited about introducing it here on the Peninsula,” Ehling said in an email to the Peninsula Daily News.
This thing, see, was born at a little playhouse in Saratoga, Calif., where director Wes Finlay was fixing to put on the regular “Mikado.” He arranged to borrow the traditional Japanese costumes and wigs from the local Gilbert & Sullivan company.
A few weeks prior to the opening, he and his cast were informed that these outfits were no longer available.
Tickets had already been sold, and Finlay was bound and determined to open that “Mikado.” So he, in an agile improvisation, rounded up the getups from the playhouse’s previous show, George M. Cohan’s “The Tavern,” and clothed his “Mikado” cast.
“We’re going to play cowboys,” he told them.
Finlay’s Saratoga playhouse is closed now. But companies such as Readers Theatre Plus are still bringing his musical to life — and Finlay himself will be in attendance tonight at OTA’s Gathering Hall, 414 N. Sequim Ave., where the show will start at 7 p.m.
“The Wild West Mikado” will run just two weeks: at 7 p.m. today (Saturday), and again at 7 p.m. next Thursday, June 26, through Saturday, June 28, plus two matinees, at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday and next Sunday, June 29. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
As things shook out last week, Readers Theatre Plus had a “Wild West Mikado” incident of their own.
The troupe had planned to stage their show at the Sequim Prairie Grange Hall, but a scheduling conflict arose. Ehling, Dries and company had to up and move the production and were relieved to find the Gathering Hall available.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, “This show has all the characteristics of a Western but retains the original story that [Gilbert & Sullivan] intended,” said Ehling.
It’s aimed at anybody who likes to laugh a lot, he promised, adding that last summer’s “Mikado” cast is back for all of the flirting, fanning and smooching.
With Janice Parks as musical assistant director and Pat Marcy as accompanist, the singers include Linda Grubb, Ric Munhall, Trent Pomeroy, Pat Owens, Valerie Lape, Bonnie Christianson and Arie Vlaardingerbroeck.
“One of my favorite moments in the show is the trio with McTush, P.B. and KoKo,” said Ehling. “Both Gilbert and Sullivan show off their skills by using poly rhythms: P.B. and KoKo introduce and develop in simple meter. But McTush introduces a compound meter,” and in the last few moments, all three return to simple meter.
Then all three join in the final in double time — “a magnificent achievement,” Ehling said.
“P. B. (John Silver), KoKo (Joel Yelland) and McTush (Carl Honore) are up to the task,” he added.
Dries sighed over her own favorite parts: “Yum Yum (Karen Pritchard) realizes that she is so beautiful because she is a child of Nature, and Nature is beautiful.
“The innocence of the moment is lovely,” she said.
Alongside “The Wild West Mikado” this week and next, Readers Theatre Plus will have its annual silent auction to benefit the troupe’s scholarship fund.
Bidding will continue through the run, with winners announced after the June 29 show.
Advance “Wild West” tickets are on sale at Purple Haze Lavender shop at 127 W. Washington St., Sequim, and at Odyssey Books, 114 W. Front St., Port Angeles.
For more information about the show and the producers, visit www.ReadersTheatrePlus.com or phone 360-797-3337.