The Kukla, Fran, and Ollie Mikado
With Fran Allison, Burr Tillstrom, and
Producer: Beulah Zachary
This is a very heavily adapted performance of The Mikado by Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, that appeared on NBC television in 1954. A kinescope survives, which Charles Schlotter saw at the Television Academy in North Hollywood, CA. Two brief video clips are posted at The Unofficial Kuklapolitan Webside. (You will need RealPlayer to view these.)
Here is Charles Schlotter's review:
In this performance, the Kuklapolitan Players attempt a dress rehearsal for their seventh annual performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado." It was, needless to say, a far cry from the G&S original, with much-abbreviated versions of a few musical numbers and some still funny ribbing of pretentious amateur directors.
Kukla is Nank-Poo, and Ollie is Ko-Ko (though he wears a headdress that seems to be based on Fancourt's Mikado costume). Colonel Crackie is credited as The Mikado, but he doesn't actually perform the role, not having been informed that he had been cast.
There are shreds and snatches of "If You Want to Know Who We Are," "A Wandering Minstrel," "Three Little Maids," "The Hour of Gladness," "The Moon and I" and "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring" and "Titwillow." The straightest excerpt is Fran Allison's one verse of "The Moon and I" sung in her key. The most complex is "Three Little Maids," as Burr Tillstrom voiced both Buelah Witch and Madame Ooglepuss (as well as all the other puppet characters.) Funniest is Ollie's versions of "Titwillow" and "The Flowers" rendered in Dog Language, leading to a plug for the sponsor, Pard's dog food.
Apparently this was, indeed, the seventh and last time that the Kuklapolitans tackled The Mikado. The presenter from UCLA told me that their collection includes a 1950 version which is more like an abbreviated run-through of the original, and further kinescopes may exist in the collection of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. (Not to be confused with the Museum of Broadcasting in New York City and Los Angeles.)
Perhaps a reader in Chicago may care to chase down the details of the other broadcasts. Coincidentally, there was once a Kukla, Fran and Ollie exhibition at the Chicago Historical Society at which a friend of mine saw a portion of the Mikado Dress Rehearsal episode.