Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hot Mikdo - Watermill Theatre

Hot Mikado
Book/Lyrics adaptor: David H Bell
Music adaptor: Rob Bowman
Director/Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson

This return of the Hot Mikado to the Watermill, prior to a nationwide tour, once again saw undoubted first night success judging by the audience response throughout and adulation given at the final curtain.

This show was one of Craig Revel Horwood’s first works with the Watermill back in 2006 and the show received a Regional Theatre Best Musical nomination. Based on the 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan production of Mikado the show was first presented as the Hot Mikado, with an African American cast, in 1938. Then in 1985, with much of the 1938 material lost, it was adapted by American’s David H Bell and Rob Bowman before crossing the Atlantic in 1995 to pick up that years Best Musical Olivier.

There are some stand out performances here with Jeffrey Harmer as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, at the centre of just about every scene and song, almost reaching comical “farce” proportions on many occasions.

Julian Littman as his right hand man, Pooh-Bah, holds just about every other government post and is also in fine form as he is continually able to contradict his own decisions. Even one or two “slips” were covered by fine ad-libs that even had the director in stitches.

Our three little maids are led by Abiona Omonua as Yum-Yum and she is more than ably supported by Cassie Pearson as Pitti-Sing (one front row gentleman’s eyes appeared to pop out of his head as she danced and sang her way through “For He’s Gonna Mary Yum-Yum”, in a “Kill Bill”, substantially unzipped, leather cat suit) and Georgina Field, a quirky as they come Peep-Bo.

Karen Mann, a real Watermill stalwart, has the audience rolling with laughter as her Katisha finally decides to look for new love resulting in each and every man immediately heading for a bolt hole. But under threat of death Ko-Ko’s hand is forced and he manages to “steal her heart” with his fine rendition of Tit-Willow. Also well worth a mention is Melanie Marshall as Mikado “himself”, she delivers some fine vocals as she hunts her son, Naki-Poo, played by the sophisticated Dominic Tighe.

Revell Horwood is responsible for some fine dance routines, especially considering the stage space available, and this is highlighted by a superb tap sequence where even the piano gets in on the foot tapping fun.

Diego Pitarch has come up with some elegant costume designs’ and rather strangely between the 14 strong actor musician cast there must have been 140 ties worn with only half a dozen of these around necks. The backdrop gives a fine Japenese feel to the stage, even if the cast continually forget which country they are in.

Although not my favourite CRH/Watermill production, especially when compared alongside the more heart wrenching Martin Guerre and Sunset Boulevard, there is no doubt the show fully won over a sell out house and I am sure the two week run in Berkshire will be followed by many other house full signs as it snakes its way around England and Wales before ending the run at the Temporada Alta Festival in Girona.

Finally a special mention for Lee Drage who looked remarkably young in the role of Len-Goo Man, but he was spot on with his mark of 9 when Nanki-Poo first sweeps Yum-Yum round the Titipu dance floor.

Photos: Robert Day
Hot Mikado runs at the Watermill until 19th Sept
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