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Director and writer Dale Gutzman puts the hanky panky in the Skylight Music Theater’s January show Here’s A Howdy Do: The Mischievous World of Gilbert and Sullivan. In the company's 54 year history, The Skylight has produced over 55 of the famous duo’s comic operas,  and comic opera perpetually adores G & S. 

Four Milwaukee performing favorites, NIffer Clarke, Paul Helm, Ray Jivoff and Diane Lane, give this “off the wall” script on Gilbert and Sullivan a blend of accomplished skill with plenty of Gutzman’s planned silliness. Only top quality acting and singing could carry the evening that inspires spontaneous laughter. 

While the opening scene finds the quartet without any sheet music, the performers finally begin singing, thanks to downloading the information and lyrics on their I Phones. However, some of the best numbers from the first act come near the end. Clarke solos in “The Willow Song," a ballad composed by Sullivan while Lane reads a Gilbert poem, which Helm and Jivoff mime to great effect.

The grand finale presents “The Amazing Eight Minute Mikado” and reaches out to the audience with quick-witted humor, including ending in a tribute to Yokahoma (or Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma).  In fact, R & H get their acclaimed due throughout the show with quirky references to the Skylight’s holiday show, The Sound of Music. 

Throughout the performance, Clarke and Lane play the petulant divas that Helm and Jivoff try to reconcile. Sometimes this slim plot line works; at others the songs stand better without any kibbitzing. A true unconventional producer such as Gutzman might carry the "thoughtless folly" (in the words of G & S) a little too far, yet, these talented professionals work their own brand of magic. 

Jivoff performs the poignant “Sad is the Women’s Lot” (from Patience) while Helm beautifully addresses “A Tenor’s Lament" (Utopia Limited). Perhaps the scene where two audience members come on stage to drink high tea provides unabashed and unreahearsed silliness. And all accompanied by Music Director Helm’s 'twinking' (the choice of words understood after seeing the show) the ivories on the grand piano with songs featured from The Sorcerer. 

Traditional Gilbert and Sullivan fans may find this production more than they bargained for. The chilly New Year deserves the warmth of laughter (if one overlooks some of the more sophomoric one liners). So grab someone who loves to laugh, smile and appreciate Gutzman’s joy ride through his wacky Gilbert and Sullivan revue. 

The Skylight Music Theatre presents Here’s A Howdy Do: The Mischievous World of Gilbert and Sullivan at the Broadway Theatre Center through January 18. For information or tickets please call: 414.291.7800 or click the Skylight link to the left.               by Peggy Sue Dunigan





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