Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Hot Mikado, Landor Theatre

Review: Hot Mikado, Landor Theatre

Published in Time Out, 12.10.2012

Gilbert and Sullivan catch a serious case of the jitterbug in David H. Bell and Rob Bowman’s 1986 adaptation of their classic comic operetta. Following two jazzy ’30’s versions, it basically just sets the original to a different beat. Dainty, tinkling pianos are out; somersaulting drums and double bases, in.

Updated to 1940’s Japan but twisted with Americana, Gilbert’s plot nevertheless remains in tact. Delaying his own death sentence by playing executioner, Ian Mowat’s puffed-up fusspot Ko-Ko cuts a deal with Nanki-Poo (Mark Daley), ardent admirer of Ko-Ko’s intended, Yum-Yum (Victoria Farley). Nanki-Poo can marry her for a month – but then he must die, to keep the hit rate up and the Mikado happy.

Musically, it’s inspired; totally toe-tapping. Sullivan’s melodies survive intact, but scat and doo-wap make perfect sense of fiddily operatic trills. Three Little Maids becomes an Andrews Sisters close-harmony number and the cast Swing a Merry Madrigal.

Director Robert Mcwhir frames the whole as a radio play to little avail, but stages an explosion of entertainment that’s hoochier than a bathtub of gin. Thank Mandi Symonds for that; her vampish Katisha puts the Etta into operetta as she stalks Nanki-Po. Meanwhile, Robbie O’Reilly’s choreography has you itching to jive and Lindy hop along.

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