When Opera West opens its five-performance run of "The Mikado" Tuesday evening, Shaun Bushnell Humphries will feel right at home. The 36-year-old singer/actress spent seven years with the Gilbert and Sullivan Players in New York City, doing comic alto roles.
This time she's cast as the homely Katisha, rejected by her husband-to-be in an arranged marriage. It's a challenge, said Humphries, because "I'm not really an opera singer; I'm a comedian." Nevertheless, she can sing and is enjoying the challenge of creating a character the audience will find funny yet vulnerable.During her nine years in New York, Humphries presented programs about Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas to private schools.
"Sullivan was a serious writer," she says, "but Gilbert would be our modern-day David Letterman." She believes the role of Katisha combines elements of both.
"The Mikado" will be performed Tuesday and Wednesday in the Springville High School auditorium, then Thursday through Saturday in the deJong Concert Hall at Brigham Young University. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the Springville shows are $4 for adults, $3 for children ages 7-12. BYU performances are $6 and $4. (Call 378-7444 for BYU reservations. Smith'sTix also has tickets.)
Humphries played the lead in several Pioneer Memorial Theater productions while a student at the University of Utah before heading to New York in 1978 to be an actress.
"Actually," she confides, "I'd have gone if I'd wanted to be a dental hygienist; I love New York!"
She performed with road tours of "Godspell" and "Pippin" before signing on with the Gilbert and Sullivan Players. After she married Stephen Humphries (a native Englishman who, ironically, doesn't share her enthusiasm for Gilbert and Sullivan), the couple moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., for a year. Twenty months ago, just before the birth of son Duncan, they landed in Provo, where Stephen teaches math at BYU.
Although the relative calm of Utah County in no way rivals the glitz and glamour of her beloved New York City, Humphries is happy to be back in a musical and said she has enjoyed working with the community-based cast for "The Mikado."
Neil Vanderpool is directing the production, described by Humphries as "full of movement and energy." Angela Murray is Yum-Yum, Adam Russell plays Nanki-poo, Bryce Johnson is Ko-ko, and Robert Prosch plays the Mikado. Other roles will be sung by David Wright, David Duke, Cathy Oldroyd and Kenna Allen.
Doc Taylor is musical director for the chorus. Howard Ruff will conduct a live, 20-piece orchestra. Debbie Augustus has served as rehearsal pianist.