The Mikado

In recent years, theater companies including the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company have become more fully aware of the controversy regarding The Mikado and the negative racial stereotypes which the work has perpetuated.  

While some theater companies might respond to the controversy by choosing not to perform the piece, the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company believes that The Mikado is an extraordinary, classic theatrical work that should be performed, with the firm conviction that that which is best about the piece … it’s beautiful music, its’s delightful dialogue and hilarious storyline … can be preserved while that which is inappropriate can be removed.

The Company made its first attempt towards achieving this goal with its 2016 Summer Concert performance of The Mikado.  In this concert presentation of the operetta, all references to Japan were removed from the text.  The character of the Mikado was referred to as the Emperor.  The names of almost all of the characters were changed to variants of the originals.  The Japanese texts were changed.  “Miya Sama” was rendered in a free translation of the original Japanese song upon which the piece was based, “Mighty Monarch, fearless leader, Marching in the thund’ring dawn, Banners flutter bright to meet you, And the horse you’re on.  Get it done, fearless leader, get it done.”  Gilbert’s original, nonsensical Japanese text, “O ni, bikkuri shakkuri to!” was rendered as an equally nonsensical, “Oh, my pinkery stubbery toe!”  This text, however, was not an attempt at translation, but one that simply rhymed with the surrounding texts and had the right number of syllables!  

This revised concert presentation of The Mikado was very well received by the huge audiences in attendance and was a confirmation that the work can be performed successfully without the negative stereotypes.  The Company will do so again in its fully staged Spring 2019 production of The Mikado, to be directed by Rick Shiomi, using his reimagined version of the operetta.  We look forward to that opportunity!

 

There is no song in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan that enjoys as rich a tradition having its lyrics revised as does Ko-Ko’s “I’ve Got a Little List” song.  Performers began to sing revised lyrics to the song even in Gilbert’s day.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company has done its part to maintain this tradition, performing with revised lyrics in its 2007 production of The Mikado, as well as in four of its for Summer Concert performances of the Show.

Our audiences have always thoroughly enjoyed our revised lyrics to this song.

In our 2007 production of The Mikado, “I’ve Got a Little List” was sung by Peter Hedlezky, as Ko-Ko, with the Men’s Chorus.

There’s the tenor serenader, oh, we’d stop him if we could,
    And the Swedish organist, I’ve got him on the list!
The people who eat lutefisk and claim it’s rather good,
    They never would be missed, they never would be missed!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from New Brighton, who dresses like a guy,
And who “doesn’t think she dances but would rather like to try.”
And that singular anomaly, the Senator Bill Frist
    I don’t think he’ll be missed, I’m sure he’ll not be missed!

There’s the driver with the Happy Meal who’s talking on the phone,
    The careless motorist, I’ve got him on the list!
The telephone solicitors who won’t leave you alone,
    They never would be missed, they never would be missed!
There’s the waiter with the piercings, who can put you off the food,
Debaters on the radio who specialize in rude,
The patriot who waves the flag, then flies it in the rain,
American’s who never vote but know how to complain,
And those who thought those mass destruction weapons did exist.
    They never would be missed, they never would be missed!

 

The following version of the “I’ve Got a Little List” song was performed by Felix Aguilar Tomlinson, as Ko-Ko, at our 2016 Summer Concert performance of The Mikado.  It was written by Tom Berg and Maureen Kane Berg, with a third verse nod to the 2016 presidential campaign.

As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list,
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
    And who never would be missed – who never would be missed!
There’s the robo-caller phoning when you’re sitting down to eat;
The high school kid who knocks at midnight, shouting “Trick or treat!”
Receptionists who make you wait a half an hour more;
And golfers who will smack your head and only then yell “Fore”;
The fool drowned out by airplanes, the Mikado soloist,
    I don’t think he’d be missed, I’m sure he’d not be missed!

There’s the driver who will barge into the crossroad and get stuck,
    And the texting motorist – I’ve got them on the list;
The clown who takes the last two parking spaces with his truck.
    He never would be missed, he never would be missed!
And traffic engineers who close a road a month or more,
And send you on a detour back to where you were before;
And airlines who have made their flights a tiresome ordeal,
With tiny seats and bag of mini-pretzels as a meal;
And travelers who zip by on the TSA-Pre list,
    They’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed!

But this year I would start with all political buffoons who act obstructionist.
    I’ve got them on the list;
Who whistle past a crisis with the same old tired tunes.
    They never would be missed, they never would be missed!
All hosts on Fox and CNN and MSNBC;
All those who post on Facebook and who disagree with me;
And candidates like what’s-his-name and also you-know-who.
The task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you;
And that singular anomaly, the orange narcissist, who Marla Maples kissed.
    I know he’d not be missed!

The following version of the “I’ve Got a Little List” song was performed by Mather Dolph, as Ko-Ko, at our 2010 Summer Concert performance of The Mikado.  It was written by Mather Dolph, with input by Mark Alt.

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I’ve got a little list–I’ve got a little list
Of some modern-day offenders who might well be underground,     
    And who never would be missed–who never would be missed!
There’s the youth who keeps his IPOD turned on 7-24.     
The folks who use one parking spot, and then a little more.
The crashing bore who thinks his every thought is worth a TWEET.
That self-absorbed ex-Cavalier – we’ll let him feel the “Heat.”
And the nitwit who let out of jail the Libyan terrorist
    I don’t think he’ll be missed–I’m sure he’ll not he missed!

And here’s a character with whom we all have had some gripes:  
    The Wall Street lobbyist.  I’ve got him on the list.
And while we’re at it lets add politicians of ALL stripes.    
    They’d none of ’em be missed–They’d none of ’em be missed.
And those angry TV talking heads who rant like Captain Blye.
Except, of course, the thoughtful ones who think like you and I.
That BP CEO should clean up every oily spot.
But off he goes to England to go sailing on his yacht.
But it really doesn’t matter whom you put upon the list,    
    For they’d none of ’em be missed–they’d none of ’em be missed!

The following version of the “I’ve Got a Little List” song was performed by Mather Dolph, as Ko-Ko, at our 2006 Summer Concert performance of The Mikado.  It was written by Mather Dolph.

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I’ve got a little list–I’ve got a little list
Of some modern-day offenders who might well be underground,
    And who never would be missed–who never would be missed!
There’s the chap who’s on his telephone while weaving down the road.
The folks who have to re-tell each Survivor episode.
The youth who keeps his IPOD turned on 7-24.
The folks who use one parking spot, and then a little more.
And just today I wouldn’t mourn the met’orologist.
    I don’t think he’ll be missed–I’m sure he’ll not he missed!

And here’s a character with whom we all should have some gripes:
    The crooked lobbyist.  I’ve got him on the list.
And while we’re at it lets add politicians of ALL stripes.
    They’d none of ’em be missed–They’d none of ’em be missed.
And I for one am fed up with those film and TV stars
Whose lives they think must be so much more int’resting than ours.
About whose love affairs and babies I don’t care a whit.
Send ALL of ‘em to Africa and drop ‘em in a “Pitt”.
But it really doesn’t matter whom you put upon the list,
    For they’d none of ’em be missed–they’d none of ’em be missed!

The following version of the “I’ve Got a Little List” song was performed by Mather Dolph, as Ko-Ko, at our 2000 Summer Concert performance of The Mikado.  It was written by Mather Dolph and Zoe Kuester. 

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
    I’ve got a little list–I’ve got a little list
Of Victorian offenders who might well be underground,
    And who never would be missed–who never would be missed!
There’s the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with ’em flat–
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that–
And all third persons who on spoiling tete-a-tetes insist–
    They’d none of ’em be missed–they’d none of ’em be missed!

And since execrable people weren’t found just in Gilbert’s time
    We’ve got another list — we’ve got a newer list!
Of some modern day offenders who we’ve coyly put to rhyme
    And who never would be missed–they never would be missed!
There’s the marketers who wait to phone ‘til dinner’s on the plate.
Appointments that you hightail to and then they make you wait.
The folks who talk on cell phones as they’re weaving down the road.
The sorry souls who memorize each Star Trek episode.
And that singular anomaly, the tenor soloist,
    I don’t think he’ll be missed–I’m sure he’ll not he missed!

There’s the self-absorbed musician once know just as “The Artist.”
    And the tobacco lobbyist – I’ve got him on the list.
And that woman in the newspaper — the gossip columnist.
    I don’t think she’d be missed, I’m sure she’d not be missed.
And the billionaire computer nerd who doesn’t want to share.
The feather-boa-ed governor who’ll fight you on a dare.
And every misbehaving politician – you know who.
The task of filling in the names I’d rather leave to you.
But it really doesn’t matter whom you put upon the list,
    For they’d none of ’em be missed–they’d none of ’em be missed!