Forbidden love

Funny meets forbidden love in The Mikado at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (Pictured: Cast with Kevin Petersen as Nanki-Poo and Holly King as Yum-Yum at far left)

Forbidden love is easy to find onstage or on the big screen —  and even on all sorts of little screens. I chatted recently with college sophomore Kevin Petersen of Mesa about his role in a tale of forbidden love opening at Chandler-Gilbert Community College Friday, June 24.

Julian Pena as The Mikado of Japan in the CGCC production that runs June 24-29

His character is expected to marry someone of his father’s choosing, something he has no interest in doing. So his character runs away, only to find true love with another. But there’s a catch. The girl of his dreams has been promised, against her will, to another.

She’s set to wed the town executioner, making any thought of carrying on an illicit love affair feel especially dangerous. The young man on the run, who has disguised himself as a traveling minstrel, decides to keep running — but thoughts of the girl haunt him still.

And so he returns to woo her, but with what result? Does he keep his head? Lose his heart? Continue to run? Or settle down? You won’t know until you go. Unless you happen to be a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, who wrote the work being performed by Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

It’s “The Mikado” — and it’s being presented at CGCC June 24-29. “It’s a really fun and goofy show,” quips Petersen, a vocal music education major who is thrilled with the opportunity to further hone his acting chops. He also appeared in the the CGCC production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which takes forbidden love to a whole other level.

“The show is good for all ages,” says Petersen. Not something you can say about many of the more contemporary tales of forbidden love out there these days. Petersen believes its many subplots add to the work’s appeal. Think Japan in an age of British Imperialism. 

Holly King (Yum-Yum) and Kevin Petersen (Nanki-Poo) during a dress rehearsal for the CGCC production of The Mikado

Petersen’s older brother Jacob, who auditioned hoping to enjoy a bit more brother-to-brother time, is also performing in “The Mikado.” He loves the way Gilbert and Sullivan, both British, manage to poke fun at their own culture through characters who pride themselves for supposed superiority over Japanese characters and ways.

Two of Jacob Petersen’s children also perform in “The Mercado” — and Petersen himself did several theater productions during his student years. He agrees the work is good for audiences of all ages — noting that there’s a lot of action constantly moving the work forward.

Marren Sanders as Katisha in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado at CGCC

Jacob Petersen shares that this production features some “modernized” language that makes the dialogue more accessible and easier to understand than it was originally. When the executioner riffs about folks he might like to do away with, for example, he offers a modern-day twist.

After chatting with the Petersen brothers, I have a whole new appreciation for “The Mikado.” I used to think “old” and “operetta.” Now I think “classic” and “comedic.” If you’re not familiar with the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, or you’re game for supporting students working to translate their artistry for a new generation, set aside some time to enjoy “The Mikado” at CGCC.

Short of finding and following a Lady Gaga tour bus, this seems your best chance to enjoy paper mache wigs and all the good fun that goes along with them.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for “The Mikado” show dates/times and ticketing information. If you missed their production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” click here to learn when you can enjoy the musical performed by Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert.

Coming up: Review of “War Horse” on Broadway, Theater Works presents “Romeo & Juliet,” More comedy meets community college, “Stage Mom” hits NYC museums

Photos courtesy of Chandler-Gilbert Community College

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