The Gateway stage is transformed into Titiu Japan and a high energy jazzed cast is terrific in this 42nd Street Moon staging of HOT MIKADO. This is the 1940's swing-time, gospel-infused version of Gilbert and Sullivan's popular operetta, The Mikado. HOT MIKADO is now at the Gateway stage only through October 13th. Directed and choreographed by Jeffrey Polk, he has assembled a 15 member diverse cast to bring this swing pop jazz explosion of fun. This is an adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1885 operetta, with book, lyrics, by David H. Bell and Rob Bowman's arrangement of the score. Music directors Dave Dobrusky and Jon Gallo have an enthusiastic four member band built into Mark Mendelsons ideal set and brings a rich sound to this sharp cast.
The main characters remain; Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel who is played with his trumpet in hand, by the thrilling Jean-Paul Jones and his beautiful little sweetheart, Yum-Yum. Yum-Yum played by the graceful Lucca Troutman. They both sing “This is What I’ll Never Do” as Yum Yum reminds Mr Poo that she is engaged to the town executioner. Peep Bo is played by the tuneful Christine Caspsuto Shulman who sings “Three Little Mermaids” with Yum Yum and Pitti-Sing in a 40’s Andrews Sisters through back. The gifted Janelle LeSalle and Lindsey Meyer help bring this gospel romp a mix of Japanese and 1940s American swing that keeps the show jazzed from start to finish.
There is another lady, an aging torch singer named Katisha played by the elegant Michelle Ianiro who is on the trail of boyfriend Nanki-Poo. Ianiro’s solo “The Hour of Gladness” sets up the love triangle and it’s complications set the tone for this clever production. Polk directs and choreographs HOT MIKADO with wit and pizzazz. The show itself retains much of Gilbert's original language, Sullivan's music, and all of the spirit of the original operetta, with its twisted logic, busy patter, and pop melodies. The '30s and '40s sounds of swing and World War II era vocal harmonies ring with gospel and Motown R&B, and your set to rise out of your seat and dance with the company.
The show's opener, "We Are Gentlemen of Japan," features a handful of sharp-looking chorus men, duded up in Marisely Fonseca's colorful vintage suits, scatting and leaping about. The snap of chorus that seemingly come out of nowhere and are used throughout the rest of the number for punctuation. The men featuring the energized Nick Rodrigues, Vinh G Nguyen, Michael Mortroni, and Jon David Randel also open the first act with the classic “A Wand’ring Minstrel” and show off their marvelous voices.
The principals are all first-rate singers and comic actors, starting with Jaron Vesely's Ko-Ko and his many featured numbers including “Behold the Lord High Executioner”. Vesely is charming including some smart dialogue from David Bells book. Silver haired Kelly Hoston's Pooh-Bah, dressed in an earth tone dapper suit and a smooth vest, leads the rocking number "And the Drums Will Crash" with his rich baritone. Ianiro's sultry Katisha crafts her role's humor, with her Act II duet with Ko-Ko, "Beauty in the Bellow." As Yum-Yum, Troutman has the pipes for the soprano role, and brings a natural affinity for Gilbert and Sulivan silliness in the song "Here's a Howdy-Do," which includes Nanki-Poo and Ko-Ko. Amie Shapiro as Pitti-Sing lets loose with a surprisingly giddy elastic gospel voice.
In the title role, often a throwaway in the traditional operetta, the powerhouse Branden Noel Thomas stops the show twice with "Mikado Song," highlighted by a tap number that continuously tops itself even as Thomas is a smooth as any pro I have seen. Thomas is impeccable in the second Act and the show pops everytime he is on stage. Costuming and wigs are an attractive mix of American swing era and traditional Japanese created by Marisely Cortes Fonseca. Light designer Michael Palumbo brings a Cotton Club styled setting on the main stage. The set pieces and company move on and off stage with ease under stage managers Alicia Lerner and Lauren Howry.
HOT MIKADO remains true to the original plot with a light-hearted musical comedy romp, with its influences from vaudeville to Cotton Club, plus sly little digs at the G & S tradition. Gilbert and Sullivan’s have always been quintessentially British, despite being dressed up in Japanese costumes, with lanterns and screens and characters with Japanese names this pop jazz musical is a must see. Next up at 42nd street Moon is their holiday re boot of the original new musical SCROOGE IN LOVE that opens December 4th. But in the meantime catch the closing weekend of this pop jazz romp HOT MIKADO and bring your own tambourine.
42ND STREET MOON Presents
Book and Lyrics Adapted by David H. Bell
Music Adapted and Arranged by Rob Bowman
Based on “The Mikado” by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Directed and Choreographed
by Jeffrey Polk
Music Director: Dave Dobrusky
Co-Vocal Director: Jon Gallo
Must Close October 13th
Running time 2 hours 20 min with one intermission
215 Jackson Street
San Francisco Ca
Tickets on sale now at http://42ndstmoon.org
Photos by Ben Krantz