14 October 2009 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Hot Mikado suffers something of an identity crisis. It canít quite decide whether it wants to be musical satire or slapstick farce, set in Japan or America, a reflection of modern society or a throwback to the 1930s. The result is a sometimes confusing mixture of Gilbert and Sullivan, modern pop culture references, mobile phones, swing, gospel, kimonos and samurai swords. The plot remains essentially the same: Nanki-Poo disguises himself as a second trumpet to escape marriage to the older Katisha and woo his beloved Yum-Yum who is in turn betrothed to the Lord High Executioner, Koko. While the songs of the original operetta translate surprisingly well into modern jazz and swing styles, there does not seem to be any point to doing so.
It starts with an interesting premise but fails to do anything with it. This is much of the problem of Hot Mikado Ė it does not quite go the whole way. The best features were its very funny and intelligent comments upon current affairs and had it been transferred completely to a modern-day British or American setting, it would have made a far wittier, more exciting production. As it stands, it hovers somewhere between this and the original, a rather half-hearted hybrid.
That said, there was much to enjoy in the production, not least
Sarah Travisís infectious musical score featuring swing, big band, jazz, Motown and gospel sounds which were played and sung by the multitalented cast. There were also some genuinely funny moments such as when Koko referenced the recent MP expenses scandal during his rendition of Iíve Got a Little List. It is only a shame that these moments were few and far between as the humour became increasingly silly. The acting was hit and miss. Jeffrey Harmerís Koko, Karen Mannís Katisha and Julian Littmanís Pooh-Bah were the highlights of the show providing hilarious and brilliantly characterised comic roles. However, Abiona Omonua and Dominic Tighe were disappointing as Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo, probably because they had been directed to act in such an exaggerated, caricatured way that their characters had no depth or substance, leaving an emotional vacuum at the very centre of the play. We cannot sympathise or care about them and we certainly cannot believe in their love. It is a classic instance of plot and character being sacrificed for cheap laughs.
The best way to think of Hot Mikado is perhaps as a glorified panto and taken as such it can provide an amusing enough eveningís entertainment. The music is good, the jokes sometimes funny and if it lacks depth, point or logic, its energy and vibrancy cannot be denied.
- Alice Fletcher
Subscribe to our free newsletter