Local students land roles in reinvented opera classic

By: Sarah Wojcik, Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 20, 2016

 Members of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus rehearse “The Mikado” at the Detroit Opera House.

Members of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus rehearse “The Mikado” at the Detroit Opera House.

Photo provided by Ken Jacobsen Jr.


METRO DETROIT — If you want to get a sneak peek at a future superstar — or even 11 of them — head to the Detroit Opera House next weekend.

Nearly a dozen children from the Birmingham-Bloomfield area will take the stage in a fully staged production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” as part of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus.

The show has been reimagined for a younger generation, combining humor, bright colors and elements of anime. Eighty children ages 8-16 from around the metro Detroit area will perform, including several from Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills.

Fifteen-year-old Rachel Miltimore has been with the chorus for six years, and she’ll play the role of Pooh-Bah in next weekend’s production.

“I am so incredibly excited about our upcoming show,” Miltimore, an online student, said in a statement. “Pooh-Bah is an extravagant, arrogant and highly comical character who is a lot of fun to play. It’s a lot of extra work, but the reward is twice as nice.”

“The Mikado” tells the story of a boy who escapes his father’s palace to avoid marrying an elderly woman. While posing as a minstrel, the boy falls in love with a girl who is already promised to the lord high executioner.

JT Langlas will play the lead role of the Mikado, joined by other locals, including Brooke Bugajewski, Conor Field, Molly Levin, Miltimore, Ava Roessler, Kevyn Roessler, Anna Schultz, Miranda Cancelosi, Cosette Keli and Clara Schwyn.

Set and costume designers created an explosion of color and liveliness to captivate a young audience and transform the Detroit Opera House’s main stage.

MOTCC Director Suzanne Mallare Acton said the operetta is a great piece for young singers because it’s lighthearted and fun, and provides great vocal and acting challenges and learning opportunities.

“We like to vary our repertoire, and ‘The Mikado’ has a lot of dialogue, in addition to a very stylized presentation,” Acton said. “We thought the kids would benefit from this opportunity.”

Angela Boyce, public relations chair for the Michigan Opera Theatre, said this is the first time children will perform “The Mikado” in Michigan and that the MOTCC has been working on the production since December.

“If you like anime and art, you will want to come to this. It’s eye candy for the audience, with lots of bright colors,” Boyce said. “The kids learned from an actual theater coach teaching them acting. They’re really excited about that.”

Costumes incorporate elements from Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Pokemon, “Dragon Ball Z” and more, she said.

The show’s creativity is equaled only by the performers’ talent, according to Acton. The ensemble theater includes exceptional singers and actors from Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, and a few from Canada as well.

This will be Miltimore’s last year with the ensemble, since she’ll soon be too old, though she knows she’ll find another outlet to perform. It’s just so much fun, she said.

“I love the process that goes into putting on a show,” she explained. “Being on the stage gives me a feeling of being on a roller coaster, and I love the thrill that comes from getting to do something I love that also brings people together and entertains them. My favorite part of performing and singing in general is when you are so involved in a song that time seems to stop for a second, and that’s when the magic happens.”

Tickets range from $15 to $20. To purchase tickets, visit www.michiganopera.org, call (313) 237-7464 or visit the Detroit Opera House box office, located at 1526 Broadway St. in Detroit.

For more information about the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Chorus, visit www.motcc.org or call (313) 680-6682.