THEATRE; They should Ko-Ko

Hot Mikado Queen's Theatre, London

When Kevin Kline swung from a mast in 1981, announcing how glorious it was to be a pirate king, he wasn't the first to put some pep into Gilbert & Sullivan. In 1938, a black cast, including Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, performed The Hot Mikado on Broadway. When David H Bell and Rob Bowman decided to revive it, they could not find the original lyrics and orchestrations, and so wrote their own, complete with boogie-woogie runs and FDR jokes. The fun starts right away, with a gang of hipsters in lime, fuchsia and tangerine zoot suits slinking out to stare the audience down. Then they whip out what look like flick-knives, which, with a snap, become fans for the gentlemen of Japan.

In tune with today's liberal multiculturalism, Bell's production has a few white actors, including a charming Paul Manuel as Nanki-Poo. (His father, the Mikado, coolly explains, "there's not much family resemblance".) On the female side as well, the casting alone does away with the coy, prissy sexlessness of G & S and their assumption that women over 40 are hideous viragos. Paulette Ivory, a delectable teddy-clad Yum-Yum, anticipates her marriage by wriggling voluptuously through "The Sun and I". Sharon Benson's Katisha has clearly stayed unmarried because she is too much woman for the men of Titipu. Mae West couldn't improve on the way she tells us about her lovely left shoulder blade. The jitterbugging Little Maids shake everything shakeable and the arrangements are saucy and sensual - "Braid the raven hair", as close as G & S ever get to foreplay, gets a lot closer as a rhumba.

A less staid Mikado actually works better on a psychological level, if G & S have such a thing. When Katisha consents to marry Ko-Ko after he woos her with "Tit-Willow", we don't have to believe that she has been won by the poignant story. We can see that she realises this sunny little guy will always make her laugh. Ross Lehman plays Ko-Ko as a throwback to Ed Wynn or Eddie Cantor, an innocent in round glasses and a hat with a pulled-down brim. His Lord High Executioner is generally found in a 45-degree angle, as he tries to get someone to pay attention to him, or strikes a propitiously comic pose.

In a vocally strong cast, Benson's rich, Aretha Franklyn-style delivery is matched by the Pitti-Sing of Alison Jiear, a soul-sister under the skin. One's rapture is modified just a bit by the lack of sweetness, a slightly amateurish quality to some of the acting, and the length of a few of the dance sequences (the performers have the vitality of the Nicholas Brothers, but the choreography, though accurate, lacks invention).

Hot Mikado offers something for both Gilbert & Sullivan fanatics and those who think their whole output isn't worth eight bars of Guys and Dolls. My guest, who practically heads the G & S Purity League, agreed afterwards that any Mikado was seriously lacking without a Katisha who could get down and boogie on "Derry, Derry, Derry".

n Box-office: 0171-494 5040

Rhoda Koenig

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate