Preview: The Mikado, Coliseum, London WC2

Yum-Yum and the tum-tum
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The Independent Culture

For those of us who need our annual fix, Jonathan Miller's art-deco Mikado comes back to the Coliseum tomorrow with its high-kicking waitresses, lisping Yum-Yum, mincing Nanki-Poo, and a vastly swaying, pantomimically terrifying basso profundo in the title role. I ask him how it feels to be inside that giant, 80in-waisted suit. "Before, as it was made of foam rubber, almost unbearably hot," replies Richard Angas. "But this time they've created a marvellous new one, a sort of aerated Michelin man, so at last I'll be comfortable."

And he is blissfully comfortable in the role. "Jonathan Miller originally said I must look at Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, but it's gradually become more English, a foppish English businessman, who is all light and jolly on the surface, but underneath is quite nasty. And that nastiness comes out best if you're pleasant about it. Like when I played Mephistopheles, and people said: don't play evil; play good, and the bad will come out. That's what happens in The Mikado."

Did they expect such a success with this show? "Of course not, particularly as G and S has been - and still is - a Cinderella form. But I remember walking on to the set on the first day and thinking, 'What a happy atmosphere.' And I still enjoy walking into the theatre and feeling the comedy in the air. It's all about teamwork, and the blending of dance and comedy, which to me has been an unexpected pleasure, having come up through a classical background."

That's the surprise with this grand farceur. Ask him what the other high points of his career have been, and you discover it's rarefied stuff such as Britten's Curlew River, Berg's Wozzeck, and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. This year he will star in a new Jonathan Harvey opera, and his dream is to persuade cutting-edge composers to write songs for his vocal range. And he'd love to sing Sarastro in The Magic Flute.

Tomorrow to 3 March (0870 145 0200; www.eno.org)

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