THE Theatre Royal's latest offering of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado is an absolute Yum-Yum of an operetta - least of all a Nanki-poo, writes Paul Thomas.

This is giggle-making, girth-busting comic opera at it's very best.

Sensational singing with sumptuous scenery.

A great night out with a cracking tale and gorgeous girls.

And all this at Windsor's famous 'Royal', just across the river from Eton College's quadrangle where the Oscar-winning 1981 British film, Chariots of Fire, was shot.

I mention this only because I can't see The Mikado without connecting it with Chariots of Fire and the Windsor Grammar School boys who had bit parts in the famous quadrangle scene.

Chariots is the movie based on the first Brit to win the Olympic 100m in Paris in 1924, lawyer and journalist, Harold Abrahams. In the movie, Abrahams was the first man in more than 700 years to run Cambridge University's Trinity College dash around its quadrangle before its clock struck 12 times at noon.

Cambridge would not let the dash be filmed on its premises so Eton's quad, which is remarkably similar, was chosen as the location.

Cue necessary hordes of willing boys from our then nearby Grammar to pad out the scene with stars Nigel Havers and Ben Cross, and you have us all rushing to be in the movie for our ten quid and an Eton Crop haircut from the barbers in the old Windsor central station.

Abrahams met and later married D'Oyly Carte Opera Company singer Sybil Evers, who he saw as Yum-Yum singing Three Little Maids in The Mikado at the Savoy Theatre.

Hence the connection and back to Three Little Maids.

The Mikado was Thursday's first of three-in-a-row National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company outings at the 'Royal'. Tonight (Friday) we have The Pirates of Penzance and tomorrow a matinee and evening performance of HMS Pinafore, after which the theatre closes for two weeks, re-opening for Bugsy Malone on Tuesday, August 8.

Thing is....I've always felt the length of Three Little Maids to be too short, even though it's the most famous song from G&S' most popular operetta.

On Thursday, I myself, like Abrahams was transfixed by Yum-Yum - soprano Natalie Montakhab, was just spellbinding, her voice clear, her top notes crystal, her diction and cadence they have to be for G&S. The humour, wit and political nuance is lost if the protagonists cannot get the essence out with incredible vocal gymnastics....and boy does she have the vocal agility to make those leaps!

Then again, so did they all.

Yum-Yum's other maids Pitti-Sing (Fiona Mackay) and Peep-Bo (Nadia Eide) were strong in word and deed, the men's and ladies' choruses were just excellent, but there's more.

The show is set in the Japanese fictional town of Titipu, where tailor Ko-Ko has been appointed Lord High Executioner. Except that he hasn’t actually executed anyone. The show teems with a range of unforgettable characters. Pooh-Bah is the sneering Lord High Everything Else; Nanki-Poo is the disguised son of The Mikado who escaped the court to avoid the attentions of the intimidating and ugly noblewoman, Katisha and Yum-Yum is the sweet and perfect ward of Ko-Ko who just happens to be in love with Nanki-Poo. Then the formidable Mikado arrives and lives start to take a turn for the worse.

The Mikado is an hilarious romp of captivating silliness and it is no wonder that this glorious topsy-turvy tale has become one of the best-loved of all the Savoy operas.

Richard Gauntlett as Ko-Ko had me rolling with laughter, his version of As Some Day it may Happen....known as I have a Little List, always comes up to date as a list of those he wants to execute...he didn't leave out the SNP and a few others down the road from here, his On a Tree by a River (Tit Willow), delightfully eccentric.

Anthony Flaum as Nanki-Poo was sublime and superb as the full lyric tenor, A Wandering Minstrel I, captivating the audience.

Simon Wilding was an excellent Pooh-Bah and Mae Heydorn powerful as Katisha.

Baritone Matthew Siveter as The Mikado brought gravitas and greatness to his role with wonderful definition to his notes, rounding off an ensemble, which I can honestly say, brought its A Game to the 'Royal'.

Leave the tellybox to record and get yourself down to the 'Royal' for the next two G&S instalments tonight (Friday) and tomorrow.

If Pirates and Pinafore are anything like Mikado, you're in for a go on treat yourself!

Theatre Royal box office: 01753 853888.