Just like the pair themselves—W.S. Gilbert, bourgeois family man/cutting satirist, and A.S. Sullivan, shameless hymn-monger/bon-vivant bachelor—a production of any one of their operettas thrives or sinks based on a careful balance of opposites. The words and music, to take the most obvious example, are intricately interdependent as in few works in stage history. The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's strengths go beyond that. Summer in and summer out, they reconcile tradition and novelty, honoring and savoring every note and syllable in stagings imaginative enough to keep the shows from being museum exhibits. A couple of the most successful examples in their Mikado include lovely dance interludes, during the overture and elsewhere, by students from the ARC School of Ballet, and snappy updated lyrics for the two satirical patter songs (references include the Clintons, Britney, and Senator Widestance from Idaho). They also manage to combine scholarliness (unearthing and including a fragment of incidental music Sullivan wrote for one New York performance) and high spirits, and provide spectacle on a budget—you wouldn't imagine a patch of white light on a blue background would induce oooh's, but lighting designer Roberta Russell conjured a magically ravishing moon for Act 2. First among the cast of reliably brilliant familiar performers—Alyce Rogers, William J. Darkow, and Dave Ross, dryly hilarious in the title role—is John Brookes, bringing a Dickensian color and richness to his characterization of the hapless Ko-Ko.
Bagley Wright Theater, Seattle Center, 341-9612, www.pattersong.org. $12–$32. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat.; also 7:30 p.m. Wed., July 16. Ends July 26.