Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Hot Mikado

Book and Lyrics Adapted by David H. Bellhot mikado at drury lane oakbrook theatre

Music adapted and arranged by Rob Bowman

Based in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan

Directed and Choreographed by David H. Bell

Music Direction by Michael Mahler

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre

Sassy, sizzling, swing Hot Mikado makes audiences jump with joy!

For those who have not seen David H. Bell’s master work – Hot Mikado – trust me on this one – get to Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook to witness the most energetic, funny, toe-tapping musical comedy you’ll ever see. It is a tour de force comic satire: it is a dazzlingly spirited dance spectacular; and it is musical treat. In short, Hot Mikado deserves mention as one of the great all-time musicals. Amazingly, despite being a world-wide hit, this Hot Mikado has never played Broadway!

hot mikado at drury lane oakbrook theatre

So, Mr. Broadway Producer: Get to Drury Lane in Oakbrook to see your next mega-hit. All you have to do is take this production to New York and you’ll see the audiences cheering this show.

hot mikado at drury lane oakbrook theatre

Hot Mikado is a jazz-swing 1940’s era adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s beloved 1885 operetta – The Mikado. David H. Bell, a theatre historian, knew of the  “Swing Mikado” and a rival show “The Hot Mikado” stating Bojangles Robinson that opened across the street from one another in 1938 on Broadway. Bell decided to produce that version of  “The Hot Mikado” at his Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. for the 1986 season. Problem -practically no orchestrations or vocal arrangements existed from the 1938 show. So Bell and composer Rob Bowman scrambled to create a show. Bell wrote the book and new lyrics, Bowman created the orchestrations and arrangements. The result is their amazingly fun Hot Mikado!

hot mikado at drury lane oakbrook theatre

Entering Drury Lane Theatre, you see a strikingly elegant Japanese woodcut pagoda with a footbridge flanked by two gigantic folding fans (set design by Marcus Stephens) and when the show opens we are greeted by the six Gentleman of Japan (Evan Autio, Matthew deGuzman, Jarret Ditch, Stephane Duret, Tommy Rapley and Sean Walton) who are the dancers  with the Ensemble of Karen Burthwright, Amanda Krroiss, Tammy Mader and Katie Spelman upon which fuel much of the action revolves.  Not a finer dance troupe could have been found. These folks swing, tap and move with joy and precision.

hot mikado at drury lane oakbrook theatre

The Zoot suits ans stunning gowns (costume design by Jeremy W. Floyd) colorfully added zest.  The story satirized society using Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Japanese’ model despite the cast of white and African-Americans.  Death and cruelty are mocked as are desperate lovers.  The inept Lord High Executioner, Ko Ko (Stephen Schellhardt in a comic tour de force performance) loves Yum Yum (Summer Naomi Smart) who loves Nanki-Poo (the charming Devin DeSantis). Laws and edicts complicate things when death sentences are enforced for flirting. Ko Ko and Pooh-Bah (Todd M. Kryger) – the Lord Everything Else and the Gentleman of Japan attempt to resolve the rules so lovers can be together resulting in funny events and whimsical twists.

Hot Mikado starts high spirited and never lets up. Blending toe-tapping jazz-infused reworking of  Sullivan’s score with biting satirical lyrics and the physical comedy, especially from Schellhardt’s Ko Ko,  Hot Mikado unfolds with exuberance, wit and wild characters caught in wacky situations.  Musically, the journey contains jazz, swing, blues, gospel, R & B, Be-Bop and rock elements all utilizing Arthur Sullivan’s melodies.

hot makido by bell

When The Mikado (the charismatic tapper Ted Louis Levy) enters, one of the greatest ‘entrance numbers’ evolves into a fabulous, show-stopping tap number to behold. A memorable theatrical event, indeed!

The plot is resolved by Ko Ko wooing Katisha (Aurelia Williams) in the hilarious comic number “Tit-Willow.”  Everything works out.

This fantastically flawless production has strong work from Jeremy Kahn’s orchestra as well as great belts from Aurelia Williams and Susan Moniz. Devin DeSantis, Andy Lupp (Pish-Tish) and Todd M. Kryger were terrific and Summer Naomi Smart displayed her comic chops.

What a wonderful formula: a fresh jazz-infused Gilbert & Sullivan adaptation with strong dance and comic elements, sung with dynamic voices directed and choreographed by David H. Bell.  High energy and fun awaits in the Hot Mikado.  This smash hit needs to be seen to be believed.  This is sophisticated and smart musical comedy.  Trust me on this one.

Why Broadway producers aren’t jumping to take this show to Broadway is a mystery? It could be that they have not seen David H. Bell’s  Drury Lane production yet? Stay tuned. Just take this show, cast, orchestra, sets, etc. as a unit and mount it in NYC. The rest will be history.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended

At Drury Lane Oakbrook  Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oalbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111,, tickets $31, $38, $45, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission.

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