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Muses and Musing 

Jour de Gloire (Day of Glory), currently on the boards at True Brew, was written by and stars Mikko. It's a bio-drama about Napoleon Bonaparte, a role Mikko has taken for the past two years as one of the Living History Characters, who take to the Quarter streets around Christmas time. The logic of Napoleon as local history is perhaps a bit strained, since Bonaparte did not quite make it to the French Quarter -- neither when he planned to invade, nor later, when a group of New Orleans notables set out to rescue him from his prison island of Saint Helena and carry him back to the house on Chartres and St. Louis, which has for many years borne his name. The Grim Reaper put the kibosh on the bold rescue scheme. Death was the one who carried off the emperor -- before the Orleanians arrived. We might also pause to note that Mikko was sent off wearing his Napoleon duds by the powers that be in Baton Rouge to inspect the Louisiana Purchase, as far north as Minnesota.

Clearly, some fate was at work, in all this; some fate that desired to see Mikko in a tricorn hat and martial sword; some fate, or perhaps some Muse; Clio, for instance. For it is an attractive woman of that name, draped in a strapless, high-waisted, neo-classic First Empire gown who shares the stage with Napoleon. Played with poise and restraint by Allisa Brupbacher, Clio takes on as well the role of other lovers of the impetuous Corsican. This multiplicity of personas is simultaneously enriching and confusing. The play becomes more abstract, about Man and Woman. The Woman comes to represent both Muse and musing. She continually questions the Man's need for action, assertion and conquest. Interesting how that word "conquest" applies to politics and to love.

In any case, playwright/actor Mikko is aware of the pitfalls of his venture. "The idea of history as art is a little foreign to modern sensibilities," he says in defense of the show. Well, yes and no. Amadeus was an international smash hit. Playing Napoleon is setting yourself quite a task, that's for sure. Marlon Brando did it once in a movie that was an egregious bore. The point is, Mikko knew he was going out on a limb. He was taking a chance. You might say he was following his own personal muse.

Jour de Gloire is a meditation on an intense, ambitious soldier -- the man who molded the turmoil of the French Revolution into his own personal dynasty. Curiously, this modern incarnation of Alexander the Great, who strides the world and speaks of far-flung, murderous battles, is immured in a nowhere, fantasy room -- like an 18th century precursor of those sad, helpless dreamers waiting for Godot.

Under Dane Rhodes' direction, Mikko gives a considered, forceful performance in his intriguing, inconclusive script. The two costumes -- Napoleon's by Cecile Covert, Clio's by the actress Brupbacher -- are both effective, as is the set by Rhodes and David Raphel.

Meanwhile, a meditation of another sort is raising the rafters at Le Petit. We're told by no less an authority than Stanley Greene in his Broadway Musicals (fifth edition) that Dames at Sea "was inspired in part by the same 1933 backstage move on which the more elaborate 42nd Street was later based."

Dames at Sea (music by Jim Wise, lyrics and book by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller) was a camp nostalgia trip, even when it premiered in 1968. The first act shows us a new musical in rehearsal at a Broadway theater. And Broadway itself serves as the American Dream at its shiniest. Hard-boiled showgirls, a show biz diva, the producer, the new, broke, up-and-comer from Utah, the sailor who also just happens to be a great songwriter, his buddy the other sailor. If you think those sailors are out of place, you'll be relieved to know that when the theater gets demolished, the show moves onto their battleship.

Well, maybe "meditation" is not quite the right word. Stanley Green calls Dames at Sea an affectionate spoof. In fact, it's sort of vaudeville; everything is just meant to be fun. Directors Derek Franklin and Sonny Borey and choreographer Karen Hebert (who also plays the star Mona Kent) are more than equal to the task. The cast is splendidly game: Cher Westcott, Bob Edes (in two roles, with some agile shimmies and the channeled soul of Jimmy Durante), Brian Rosenberg, Bryan Wagar and Kathryn Adams get the laughs, put the songs across and keep the energy high without straining.

click to enlarge Mikko parlays his experience as a Living History Character portraying Napoleon into his own show about the almost-Louisianian in his show Jour de Gloire at True Brew.
  • Mikko parlays his experience as a Living History Character portraying Napoleon into his own show about the almost-Louisianian in his show Jour de Gloire at True Brew.
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