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David Wannen talks about starring in the upcoming production ‘The Mikado’

Actor and performer David Wannen chatted about the upcoming production of “The Mikado.”

David Wannen in 'The Mikado' show
David Wannen in 'The Mikado' show. Photo Credit: Rick Benitez.
David Wannen in 'The Mikado' show. Photo Credit: Rick Benitez.

Actor and performer David Wannen chatted about the upcoming production of “The Mikado” in New York, which is directed by David Auxier-Loyola.

Wannen also shared his thoughts on the digital age, and AI (artificial intelligence) on the future of the entertainment industry.

“The Mikado” will be performed at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse this Saturday and Sunday (January 6 and 7),  and next Saturday and Sunday on January 13 and 14.

Forthcoming show in New York

On being a part of the show, Wannen said, “As a performer, I have performed in multiple productions of The Mikado dating back to my days at Ohio Light Opera from 2000-2003. My first NYGASP Mikado production was in 2003-2004, my inaugural season with the company.”

Wannen continued, “20 years later, I still love the music, humor and satire in the show. My first exposure to The Mikado ever was as a five year old watching my school’s production in Washington, D.C.”

“It’s a very different opera than the other Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire,” he admitted. “I also produced this latest production, which premiered in December of 2016. It’s very meaningful that this production has succeeded.”

“It has been revived twice now in NYC (2019 and this year) and has toured up and down the West Coast, Southwest, Midwest, and last year we toured Florida and the Carolinas,” he said.

“Our goal with this production was to keep the piece alive and available for audiences to enjoy through the 21st century. We had to show that audiences and artists of all backgrounds can enjoy the story, characters and music of the piece. I am proud that we have done just that, while staying faithful to the composer and playwright’s intent,” he elaborated. 

Playing ‘The Mikado,’ emperor of Japan

On playing the title character, he said, “The title role of The Mikado , the emperor of Japan, is a fantastic character to play. He is multi faceted. Sometimes maniacal and sadistic, sometime begrudgingly governing and solving problems for those around him.  Sometimes playful, sometimes severe.”

“The weight of ruling is always on his shoulders, with its duties as well as its powers. He leads the meiosis of the story- treating death and execution as if it is far less serious than it is,” he added.

Working with David Auxier-Loyola as the director

On working with David Auxier-Loyola as the director, Wannen said, “David is a great friend and colleague. He is extremely creative but also has a drill sergeant’s teste for getting things clean and polished.”

“David conceived the prologue for the new production and the devices employed to contextualize the juxtaposition of Japan and Victorian culture. We worked very closely together in the year of the production’s premiere,” he added.

Future plans

Regarding his future plans, Wannen said, “I would like to steward NYGASP through the decades to come and keep working to make Gilbert & Sullivan a lasting part of our living theatrical canon. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary as a company next year, and are working on fundraising and audience development every week.”

“When I am not performing and producing, I am a dad who has raised three kids (youngest is 13). I also coach CrossFit and compete in Olympic Weightlifting,” he said.

The digital age

On being an actor in the digital age, Wannen said, “There are ups and downs just like anything. So much of our attention has gone to social media and a form of self-promotion has become the discipline for so many people.”

“With NYGASP, it’s kind of nice to be beyond creating self-oriented content all the time but that’s what many actors  and singers have to do these days. That said, being creative and making content over the past few years since the pandemic has been fun. The content we have made, including promotions for ‘The Mikado’ you may have seen on TV, are a lot of fun and really sell tickets,” he elaborated.

AI on the future of the entertainment industry

When asked about his thoughts on AI on the future of the entertainment business, he responded, “Tough one…We have seen some increase in writers coming up with new plays and scripts and submitting them for consideration. I do wonder if some of this is AI driven.”

“I am pretty old fashioned and very verbal, so writing comes easy to me and I enjoy it. I imagine many film and theatre writers feel the same. Getting something else to do if for you takes out part of the craft,” he said.


On his definition of success, Wannen said, “Success means doing what you love and keeping it interesting for yourself and vital for those who appreciate what you do, and with all that managing to pay your bills and take care of your family and company. I think that is success.”

Closing thoughts on ‘The Mikado’

Wannen remarked, “Everyone who comes to a Gilbert & Sullivan show, particularly performed by NYGASP, is guaranteed to leave the theatre feeling better than when they walked into the theatre. ‘The Mikado’ is no different. The satire of politics, human nature, what is true and death itself is so rich.”

He continued, “The beautiful musical moments such as  ‘The Sun Whose Rays,’ or ‘Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day,’ are treasures, and Koko’s list song ‘As Some Day it May Happen,’ and The Mikado’s song ‘A more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist’ provide perfect opportunities for topical inserts that get the audience laughing,” he elaborated.

“Finally, I hope people see how our new production boldly states that the opera can be performed inclusively and for all audiences while remaining true to Gilbert’s intentions,” he said.

“Hopefully people will feel that the piece is still as fresh as “the flowers that bloom in the spring,” he concluded.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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