Book and lyrics adapted by David H Bell, Music adapted and arranged by Rob Bowman
Originally produced by Frankie Hewitt at Ford’s Theatre, Washington D.C., USA
East meets West in this highly entertaining musical comedy. It’s the forties – a time for swing, hot gospel, blues and American jazz. Performed on Broadway in 1986, the Hot Mikado is a spoof of the original spoof that lampoons the Victorian bourgeoisie’s love affair with all things Oriental. Gilbert and Sullivan’s story and lyrics stay the same as our multi-talented cast sing and dance their way through this high energy musical.
Jenny graduated from the Mountview Academy of Performing Arts in April 2004.
Whilst at Mountview she appeared as Nickie in SWEET CHARITY, Katisha in THE HOT MIKADO, Katia Weiss in THE LAST CEAUSESCU, Gilmer in GODSPELL, Celia in AS YOU LIKE IT and Anna in CLOSER. Her first professional engagement was with the Regents Park Open Air Theatre last summer in which she appeared as Phlox in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Traveler in HENRY IV PART I and Lady of Camelot in CAMELOT. Most recently, she has appeared in MOTHER GOOSE at the Palace Theatre, Watford in her first professional Christmas show.
Jenny replaced Erin in this role for the last few performances.
Clare recently graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre in Borough. Credits include Now We Are Six, Kate in Broadway Pirates of Penzance; Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest (all at LSMT Studios), and Is There Life After High School? (Cochrane Theatre, Holborn).
Other theatre work includes Sharon in A Slice of Saturday Night; Gilmer in Godspell and Penny in Honk! which she was fortunate to perform at the Minack Open Air Theatre in Cornwall. As well as Jazz, Ballet and Tap, Clare also enjoys Irish Dancing and was recently placed ninth at the European Championships in Spain.
Huw is currently a third year music student at King’s College, London, and studying the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. He has been the Assistant Musical Director to all shows by King’s Musical Theatre since 2002, and is currently working on Jesus Christ Superstar. Originally from North Wales, Huw travels home regularly to accompany various Choirs and Soloists.
He’s the Official Accompanist for Gwynedd Young Musical Performer, and many concerts and competitions for the National Eisteddfod. Recently, Huw accompanied in the Welsh Mass Male Voice Choir concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Television work includes: Composer John a Alun (Tonfedd Television Co.); Accompanist and Composer Noson Lawen (Tonfedd); Accompanist Fash’s Football Challenge (Zig Zag Productions). In 2001 he was awarded the Business in the Community Wales Award, for outstanding achievement, through which he received a week’s work experience on Les Miserables, at the Palace Theatre, London.
The temperature is rising in Highgate with this updated, Americanised adaptation that puts the swing into Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta and has the inhabitants of Titipu dressed like Chicago gangsters and Yum and her siblings dolled up like the Andrews sisters. The running joke is that they are all astonished to discover that they are really Japanese. What this evening lacks in subtlety it more than makes up for in high spirits, and although John Plews’ production is rough and ready, it knows exactly what it is doing on limited resources and makes the most of them. A few Japanese maples lend atmosphere, the band – housed in a teahouse-like structure – are a gas, and the cast are having such a good time that the audience can’t fail to do the same. What I love about this production is that it feels entirely uncynical and like a real labour of love. We’re talking entertainment here, not high art, but it serves as a reminder that neighbourhood pub theatre is alive and high kicking, and bringing an awful lot of pleasure to a wide cross-section of the community. It is also giving a lot of young actors not long out of drama school a chance to strut their stuff.
Richard Meek has great fun as a wonderfully camp Rhinestone cowboy Mikado, Stewart Charlesworth is a slippery Pooh-Bah and as the man-eating Katisha, a woman who describes herself as “an acquired taste”, Erin Carter is terrific.
Hot Mikado brings a dash of West End glamour to Highgate and reminds us – as the BAC musicals used to do – that big musicals performed on a shoestring in small spaces can give audiences a quality of experience with which the West End cannot hope to compete. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
I should Ko-Ko
‘If only Gilbert and Sullivan could see me now!’ sings a glittery, camp Mikado as he sashays about the stage. If only. Hot Mikado, a spoof of the G&S original (which itself was a spoof of Victorian society’s love affair with everything Japanese), was first staged in 1939 in New York. So the men are gangsters in electric-coloured tailcoats and two-tone shoes and their molls high-kick their way through the jazz, swing and soul routines. Although, as they absurdly remind us, they are Japanese.
It’s a rare treat to venture into a fringe venue-especially one above a dank Weatherspoons pub in Highgate on a windy Thursday night – and be completely enthralled. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, which celebrates its seventh birthday today, has hit all the right notes with this uncommonly talented young ensemble; there’s plenty of razzle dazzle.
The action takes place around the tea house in Titipu, Japan. Nanki-Poo (son of the Mikado, ruler of Japan) returns in disguise to marry his sweetheart, Yum-Yum, but is thwarted by her guardian Ko-Ko, who was initially condemned to death for flirting under the Mikado’s new law, only to be reprieved at the last minute and appointed Lord High Executioner.
This West End-worthy production romps through the songs with gusto-highlights include ‘I’ve Got a Little List’ and a wonderful, reworked version of ‘Three Little Maids’.
Ben Farrow triumphs with his Chaplinesque Ko-Ko, especially in his version of the banal ‘Tit- Willow’ song, during which he woos the dreadful vamp Katisha (who resembles a dishevelled Cherie Blair) and Richard Meek’s outrageously camp Mikado steals the second half of the show. Gilbert and Sullivan would have approved.
Critics rarely go into pub theatres expecting to be blown away, but this production knocks you down with the energy of a force 12 hurricane. Upstairs at the Gatehouse has excelled itself with a sparkily choreographed send-up of the Japanese Gilbert and Sullivan, where a fusion of jazz, swing and soul takes the original melodies apart and blasts them into the twenty-first century.
The level of singing talent is extraordinary and, although it seems a questionable decision to mike everybody up in this relatively small venue, it certainly makes it sound like a West End production. Despite comic performances that are as hot as a generous helping of wasabi sauce, it is Racky Plews’ choreography that deserves first mention, with its attention to detail, wit and ability to raise the roof at a second’s notice.
Christopher Whitehead’s musical direction also puts the requisite oomph into this story about the unfortunate Yum Yum, who is betrothed to her guardian Ko-Ko, a man once condemned to death for flirting, but then elevated by a twist of fate to the post of Lord High Executioner. As Ko-Ko, Ben Farrow musters all the absurdity and forced dignity of someone doomed to be cuckolded even before he marries, for Clare Lomas’s precocious Yum Yum is besotted by a talentless clarinettist called Nanki-Poo.
An Andrews Sisters’ version of ‘Three Little Maids From School Are We’ is a highlight, as is Richard Meek’s exquisitely camp appearance as the silver masked Mikado. Several cast members double up by playing instruments too, presenting a multi-talented façade evocative of some of the best productions at Newbury’s Watermill.
Perfect for those keen to avoid the perils of panto. A genuine triumph for the Gatehouse.
A show bursting with real theatrical joy and irrepressible energy. Above a pub in Highgate, North London is one of the capital’s most spaciously appointed fringe theatres. It has just reached its seventh birthday and has celebrated with a sizzling production, Hot Mikado, a vibrant American jazz makeover of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta.
With the men in zoot suits and Pooh-Bah announcing himself “the coolest cat in Titipu”, liberties are taken with both the script and score but the spirit of satire and absurdity that underpins this convoluted tale of a forbidden romance conducted against a background of rigid social rules remains endearingly in place.
As performed by its cast of recent drama-school graduates, this is one of the freshest, funniest evenings in town.
Now we know it’s Christmas With rapid-fire ‘jazz hands’ flicked this fast, you wonder how the cast of the Hot Mikado don’t have someone’s eye out.
But then what else would you expect from a Christmas musical at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and everything runs like clockwork?
This is the kind of show which radiates warmth, however wintry it gets outside, bringing together a young cast more than willing to leave their cheek muscles sore from sparkly perma-grins and their soles hurting from the demanding choreography.
They pass every test with flying colours.
A spoof of a spoof, The Hot Mikado – a honkytonk take on Gilbert and Sullivan’s notorious operetta – was a forgotten show until it was revived in the West End in the 1980s.
It’s a silly love tale of a monarch’s son searching for romance while disguised as a useless clarinettist and a bumbling executioner unable to swing his axe.
Wacky trouble follows, as you would expect.
By the end, the storyline’s tangles are almost too tangled to sort out and are only unpicked by a giant sing-a-long big enough to paper over the holes in the plot.
But those playing along didn’t come for the story, they came for the singing and dancing and do not leave disappointed.
Unlike other musicals, the show has no familiar numbers but, with magical moments such as Louisa Copperwaite’s belting He’s Gonna Marry Yum-Yum, there is enough material to keep the toes tapping.
Special mention should go to Katy Tuxford for a genuinely imaginative set – heard that in every review? You won’t be saying that when you realise how much they have crammed into the Tittipu teahouse without ever making it feel cluttered.
And also to Mark Crown, a teenager trumpeter who was plucked from the music classes at Camden School for Girls, to play a central role in the house band. After his ace performance, you could forgive his schoolboy smirking during the song Tit-Willow.
Folk in Highgate Village will tell you it’s not Christmas until theatre boss John Plews and his family raise the curtain on their panto alternative. They have hit the mark again this year.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse continue their well established tradition of putting on a belter of a Christmas musical packing the public in to the rafters. And this year, is no exception with The Hot Mikado, a jazzed up and noisy version of Gilbert & Sulivan’s musical of hot and passionate oriental love.
With a fast and furious intro to the tale of Nanki-Poo’s passion for Yum-Yum, you know that the musical can only get louder and more manic as the minutes tick away. John Plews’ stage direction coupled with Christopher Whitehead’s musical direction and a flawless and hyper cast means that this is one evening at the theatre that should leave you breathless as you go out the doors at the end of the evening. Brilliant!!
BELL and Bowman have given this most popular of all Savoy Operas a raunchy Harlem beat. Katy Tuxford’s clever Japanese setting with its enchanting teahouse and multi-level performance areas perfectly sets the atmosphere and when the teahouse blinds are raised to reveal the orchestra there is a moment of theatrical magic – nine musicians in all, three of whom also appear as characters in the play.
Director John Plews has come up with a well coordinated, vigorous and youthful cast and the musicianship led by musical director Christopher Whitehead, is of a very high standard. Clare Lomas sings sweetly and plays the daffy, accommodating heroine, Yum- yum, with her own brand of sly innocence well matched by Alex Browne as Nanki-Poo as the wandering minstrel who is rubbish at the clarinet. Erin Carter is a terrifying Katisha. I could go on, but each member of the company has their own particular strength and their energy, enthusiasm and sheer enjoyment is infectious.
The outstanding performance is from Ben Farrow as Koko. More experienced than the rest of the company his rendering is unusually subtle with timing and delivery reminiscent of Groucho Marx.
With so many musical items, each one has to be staged and Racky Plews manages to find a way to make every number stand on its own without a single repetition. The creative team at the Gatehouse is a remarkable one and long may it continue.
This is an inspirational, high-energy production of the jazzed-up adaptation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s much-loved musical comedy. With a magical setting amid the pagodas, red lanterns and tea-houses of imperial Japan, the characters and musical arrangements have been transposed to the 1940s America of gangsters, jazz, swing – and gay cowboys?
The young and vibrant cast, all strong singers, are bursting with wit and musicality as the show goes by in a flash. Erin Carter is just magnificent as Katisha, looking like the unnatural offspring of Siouxie Sioux and Cherie Blair, and vamping around terrorising poor Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son, as she vainly seeks his attentions. Ben Farrow has created the splendidly dorky Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, self-important but stunningly ridiculous in his bowler hat and bifocals.
Trouble hits the mythical land of Titipu since the Lord High Executioner has singularly failed in his duty to actually execute anybody, and unless he achieves this important career objective pretty soon he is up for the chop himself. By orders of the Mikado. Sadly this means he will then be unable to marry Yum-Yum, his pert young ward. But wait – here comes a likely candidate – the lovelorn Nanki-Poo shows up, about to commit suicide for the sake of Yum-Yum. And so a deal is struck, at least for the time being.
The famous songs are all here, including Tit-Willow, Three little Maids, and my particular favourite – the theme song of the Lord High Executioner – I’ve got a Little List (of those who won’t be missed). Ever since I first heard this song some years ago I have been compiling Little Lists of my own. Someone cuts you up at the traffic lights? He’s going on my list. David Blunkett, Tony Blair, and George Bush? They will not be missed.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse is justly famed for its Christmas shows complete with real live musicians, and here we have a cool jazz combo sitting in the tea-house plus wand’ring minstrels amongst the cast. Toe-tapping jazz arrangements lose nothing of the original melodies and the whole show swings.
The Mikado/Hot Mikado never had the slightest intention of being politically correct in any way whatsoever – the primary intention as with most of G&S being to lampoon us Brits. As for that gay cowboy – the hyper-camp offspring of George Michael and Elvis Presley, carried off with much whimsical style by Richard Meek – he is of course the Mikado.
Young people will enjoy being introduced to live music and may realise that there is in fact more to life than i-Pods and computer games. Hot Mikado is fabulous Christmas entertainment – don’t miss it!
The Hot Mikado Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate With two versions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado taking place on opposite sides of the river, it would appear that you should journey north of the river if you in search of a sizzling night of musical comedy and high entertainment.
With refreshing direction from John Plews, Hot Mikado, the unorthodox musical, set in America in the 40s, is brought to life through excellent choreography orchestrated by Racky Plews.
The cast is young, bright and vivacious. Costume designer Candy Arbuckle has her men draped in dazzling purple, yellow and orange suits, transmitting high levels of energy. The cast make full use of Katy Tuxford’s terrific setting including its exquisite Japanese house, part of which accommodates a talented young quartet who are supported by three of the actresses. Fresh from creating the set for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, it is apparent that Tuxford is a set designer with a burgeoning career.
Initially performed on Broadway in 1986, the Hot Mikado is a spoof of the original spoof that makes fun of the Victorian bourgeoisie’s love affair with all things Oriental.
The story remains intact and has Yum Yum (Claire Lomas) in love with Nanki-Poo (Alex Brown), despite already being engaged to Ko-Ko (Ben Farrow). Erin Carter injects tremendous energy into the man-hungry, nasty Katisha who finally has her way with the Mikado (Richard Meek).
If you are looking for high quality non-traditional Christmas entertainment then head to Upstairs at the Gatehouse. There is plenty of eclectic music on offer including swing, jazz and soul. Added to this there is excellent acting from a multi-talented team. It is doubtful that you will be disappointed.
This is the second Mikado to open in London in two days, both of them unorthodox. Following the cricketing version at the Orange Tree, another family-run theatre, Upstairs at the Gatehouse in north London, sees a new version of the 1986 swing adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular classic.
With the exception of a venerable director John Plews, the creative team behind this jaunty musical is ridiculously young. In fact, the likelihood is that if any is not in his or her twenties it is because they are still teenagers, rather than any thirty-something. This gives the production a freshness and vibrancy although it means that some of the characters look implausibly young.
It is easy to see why the Hot Mikado has been successful. It takes the best of Gilbert and Sullivan and moves the location to 1940s America (possibly Harlem, although with the exception of teenage trumpeter, Mark Crown, this is an exclusively white cast) updating the music to fit. Indeed, the only references to Japan are couple of weak jokes and Katy Tuxford’s wonderful set, all pagodas and tea houses. The colour that she injects is multiplied by costume designer Candy Arbuckle, who ensures that her men are no shrinking violets with suits in that colour, as well as the brightest orange and yellow.
The plot is fairly pure G and S with cute, wide-eyed ingénue Yum Yum, played by Claire Lomas, in love with a rather underpowered Nanki-Poo (Alex Brown). This is a problem as she is already betrothed to her eccentric guardian Ko-Ko, played by the excellent Ben Farrow drawing on strong influences from Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx.
The evilly villainous Katisha is played by gravelly-voiced Erin Carter, looking exactly like Siouxie Sioux as she threateningly struts around the stage, desperate for a man to eat alive. At the advent of the Mikado himself, a very camp Richard Meek complete with white Liberace suit, she finally has her way.
At one point, the balance is threatened as Louisa Copperthwaite playing Pitti-Sing, supposedly a supporting little maid, demonstrates far too much talent for the part, almost upstaging both Yum Yum and Katisha with a wonderful voice and powerful delivery.
The music delivered by a talented young quartet, energetically supported by three of the actresses, is an eclectic mix varying from Big Band swing to jazz, gospel to soul and boogie with strong elements of Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters. In most cases, this complements the original well and for those who like the more traditional version, Tit-Willow is almost untouched.
The accompanying choreography and dance is rarely less than exciting which is a compliment both to the cast, most of whom seem to have had dance training, and also to choreographer, Racky Plews.
This kind of production lives or dies on its verve and energy and the toe-tapping tunes, leading up to a big finale, together with a great look and the real enthusiasm of the cast should ensure that it sells well.