Hot Mikado

Previewed 18 May 1995, Opened 24 May 1995, Closed 19 August 1995 at the Queen's Theatre in London

Explosive Dance! Cool Jazz! Hot Mikado in London puts a deliriously upbeat sizzle into the rhythms of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic comic opera with the sweltering swingtime sound of jitterbug, jazz, blues and gospel.

Nanki-Poo is a trombone player with the local big-band who falls in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum, a Doo-wah singer. True love is thwarted when Nanki-Poo discovers his sweetheart is already engaged - to the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko! But there are more surprised in store than you can shake a chop-stick at.

The cast features Paul Manuel as 'Nanki-Poo', Paulette Ivory as 'Yum-Yum', Ross Lehman as 'Ko-Ko', Lawrence Hamilton as 'Mikado', Alison Jiear as 'Pitti-Sing', Veronica Hart as 'Peep-Bo', Sharon Benson as 'Katisha' and Richard Lloyd King as 'Pooh-Bah'. Based on 'The Mikado' by WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan with book and lyrics adapted by David H Bell and music adapted by Rob Bowman. Directed and Choreographed by David H Bell with sets by Daniel Proett, lighting by Nick Richings and sound by Rick Clarke.

"The original will feel chilly after this sizzling evening of fun and fancy footwork. As a pair of names, David H. Bell and Rob Bowman lack the triple-time rhythm of Gilbert 'n' Sullivan, but as a double act of show-makers the guys really come up with the goods. Bell adapted the book and lyrics, Bowman shot the music through the prism of swing. Bell directed and choreographed what emerged, and the result is a bizarre marvel of old Broadway injecting new blood into a fantasy Japan... In the Savoy original Nanki-Poo, the Mikado's fugitive son, disguises himself as a trombone player, which gives the show a useful lead into the big-band era. Sometimes Bowman allows the familiar melodies to be sung unaltered, at least first time round, after which the singers give a flick of the shoulders and jump into boogie-woogie or bop. Other times the songs are jazzed from the start, as when the three close-harmony girls from school take off the Andrews Sisters. All the dancing is electrifying." The Times

"They should replace the opera glasses with Ray-Bans at London's Queen's Theatre. The luminous Hot Mikado set and costumes can seriously damage the eyes. The ears would also benefit from protection as the multi-coloured cast inflict GBH on G&S... The Gentlemen Of Japan wear flash gangster suits and go for their fans instead of their guns. Yum Yum, Peep-Bo and Pitti Sing warble Three Little Maids in Andrews Sisters mode. And the Mikado, in a dazzling white whistle that would pass any window test, rules by tap dancing! You can't get much sillier than that but Ko Ko the clown manages it. Rubber-faced Ross Lehman breezes in from the Windy City to camp it up mercilessly as the High Executioner. He does things with Tit Willow that will have Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados reaching for the smelling salts. Colourful, yes. Noisy, yes. Energetic, yes. But hot it's not." The Daily Mirror

"Like Lord High Everything Else Pooh-Bah, the immortal Gilbert and Sullivan is infinitely adaptable. This latest conversion job arrives in the West End from Bromley and Chicago, flaunting its proud ancestry. The uncharitable may find the songs barely recognisable and the hard-working dance numbers rather swamping in the first half, which is more Hot than Mikado. But Gilbert surfaces safely in the surrounding cool swing of the second half - where the tale chases through its expected naive and charming routines... Hot Mikado is superficially just like most of the rest of London's predictable surfeit of fun-loving, over-loud, keep-smiling, musical fodder... Hot gets in the way of the dialogue turning everything into song and dance routines makes it hard earlier on to see why we have to bother with the Mikado bit at all. The show is said to be an attempt to reproduce a mythical 1930s Hot Mikado in the US (presumably without any of the Gilbert and Sullivan material). That's why, the programme says, it has to be set in the 1930s, when Americans were still naive and innocent. The hideous set reproduces willow pattern in a garish Art Deco design. The house on the bridge becomes a bathhouse with soft-porn silhouettes for one number... Don't hold your breath waiting for Sullivan's musical genius to break through. The Gilbert and Sullivan source is the secret of the show's success, but the treatment almost gets the upper hand." The Guardian

Hot Mikado in London at the Queen's Theatre previewed from 18 May 1995, opened on 24 May 1995 and closed on 19 August 1995