Theater Preview: HOT MIKADO (42nd Street Moon in San Francisco)

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by Frank Arthur on September 3, 2019

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


I’m guessing most of you have not seen David H. Bell’s rousing Hot Mikado, a swing-era adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved 1885 operetta, The Mikado. It may be the funniest toe-tapping musical comedy you’ve never heard of. This tour de force comic satire and dazzlingly spirited dance spectacular is a musical treat. Amazingly, despite being a world-wide hit, the show has never played Broadway. Now, 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco is presenting this sophisticated and smart winner through October 13, 2019, at the Gateway Theatre.

Bell, a theater historian, knew of the Swing Mikado and a rival show The Hot Mikado starring Bojangles Robinson that opened across the street from one another in 1938 on Broadway. Bell decided to produce a version at his Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. for the 1986 season. Since scant orchestrations or vocal arrangements existed from the 1938 show, Bell (book and lyrics) and composer/arranger Rob Bowman (orchestrations and arrangements) came up with a wonderfully fresh formula, reworking Sullivan’s score with jazz, swing, blues, gospel, R & B, Be-Bop and rock elements, and adding biting satirical lyrics. We’re still in Titipu, a town turned on its head when wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo — here a roving trumpet player — comes looking for his lost love, Yum Yum. He becomes embroiled in the topsy-turvy machinations of Titipu’s powers-that-be, as the plot unfolds with wild characters caught in wacky situations, ill-fated lovers, power politics and possible beheadings.

Stage and Cinema asked director and choreographer Jeffrey Polk (pictured above), since this is a spoof (or a spoof of a spoof), how important is it to be familiar with G&S’s Mikado before seeing this version? “The material in our own make-believe world will make the story understandable and fun without research,” he said. “It has the same songs and the story of The Mikado, just with a swing.” Which is why Music Director Dave Dubrosky, who normally accompanies 42nd Street Moon productions on piano, is bringing a live combo to the proceedings. In the spirit of the original, Polk has rightly hired a mostly Black cast — the very diverse ensemble of hoofers will distinguish themselves all night.

High energy and fun await.

The cast includes Christine Capsuto-Shulman as “Peep-Bo,” Kelly Houston as “Poo-Bah,” Michelle Ianiro as “Katisha,” Jean-Paul Jones as “Nanki-Poo,” Jon-David Randle as “Pish-Tush,” Aime Shapiro as “Pitti-Sing,” Branden Noel Thomas as “Mikado,” Lucca Troutman as “Yum-Yum” and Jaron Vesely as “Ko-Ko.” The ensemble members are Janelle LaSalle, Lindsey Meyer, Mike A. Motroni, Vinh G. Nguyen, and Nick Rodrigues.

photos by Ben Krantz Studio

Hot Mikado
42nd Street Moon
Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson St in San Francisco
Wed & Thurs at 7; Fri at 8; Sat at 6; Sun at 3; Sat at 1 (Oct 5 only)
September 25 – October 13, 2019
for tickets, call 415.255.8207 or visit 42nd St Moon

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