Few things are more indestructible than Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. It’s been set in so many different times and places that Jonathan Miller’s flapperish twenties’ mash-up for ENO is seen as as much of a ‘classic’ as the original.
The 1986 score of The Hot Mikado in which G&S got souped up by Rob Bowman pitched it into the big band era, and a broad range of jazz and blues stylings although this production focuses on swing and a neatly Americanised setting.
It’s a vigorous, pacy and cleverly compacted production: colourful, witty, full of boisterous choreography smartly integrated into the overall direction by Maddy Mutch. The five-piece band is simply outstanding, and driven by a first-rate MD in Chris Guard. Only trouble is that they’re so good that the excellent voices in the cast can’t always be heard over the music, and the show would be more nearly perfect if the principals were miked.
This is particularly unfortunate because the best voices really are worth hearing: Sarah Hollinshead’s wonderful angry contralto so perfectly frames Katisha, and the sharp and soaring tones of Adele Pope contrast beautifully with her chavvy characterization of Pitti-Sing who thereby overshadows Hannah Howie’s rather toughened Yum-Yum.
Among the men, Douglas Gibbs is a superb anchorman as 'Lord High Everything Else' Pooh-Ba, Alex Wingfield may be the first ever Nanki-Poo to successfully rock a Primark wifebeater vest and fatigues, and Charlie Warner’s Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko is a masterly combination of Gilbertian comedy and Gok Wan.