Five Star Cast of ‘Hot Mikado’ Raises the Temperature at Clapham’s Landor Theatre (Review by Fiona Lister)

5 stars for Hot Mikado at Clapham's Landor Theatre
Hot Mikado: "Three Little Maids" (from left to right: Ruthie Luff, Lucyelle Cliffe and Victoria Farley)
Hot Mikado: "Three Little Maids" (from left to right: Ruthie Luff, Lucyelle Cliffe and Victoria Farley) | Source
Victoria Farley and Mark Daley star in 'Hot Mikado' at Clapham's Landor Theatre
Victoria Farley and Mark Daley star in 'Hot Mikado' at Clapham's Landor Theatre | Source

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

Performed by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited on behalf of the authors

(Runs until Saturday 3rd November)

Hot Mikado is one of the most exotic, riotous productions I’ve seen in recent months. Musically and technically this is certainly a majestic show that bursts with variations in theme, and features vibrant songs ranging from Blues, Soul, Swing and Be-Bop matched with dance routines that raise the roof. Hot Mikado is undoubtedly one of best productions I’ve seen at the Landor Theatre boasting the hottest cast. It’s the perfect after work tonic and is fabulously entertaining, particularly when watched with a party of guests. Hot Mikado will have you smiling and tapping your feet right the way through.

David H. Bell (book and lyrics) and Rob Bowman (orchestrations and arrangements) revamped Hot Mikado from Mike Todd’s 1939 The Hot Mikado adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic story. Todd’s production featured an African-American cast and the show originally premiered at the Broadhurst Theatre (23rd March, 1939 to 3rd June, 1939), running for two seasons at New York World’s Fair in 1939-1940. The Hot Mikado was a huge draw and boasted a cast of 150 actors, which given today’s budgets is unthinkable, even for a West End show! The popular production also played at the Maplewood Theatre for one week in 1941. Bell and Bowman’s re-imagined version premiered at the Ford’s Theatre Washington from 18th March – 27th July,1986 and has since run in Chicago and in London’s West End (at the Queen's Theatre in 1995) where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

The story is set in a little Japanese town of Titipu where flirting, kissing or marrying the wrong person is punishable by death. Lowly Tailor Ko-Ko (Ian Mowat) is appointed Lord High Executioner but he’s been condemned for flirting, rendering him rather ineffectual at carrying out his evil duties. Ian Mowat is fabulous in musical numbers: “Behold the Lord High Executioner” and “Tit-Willow” and gives a grand performance as a man struggling to find a way out of impending doom, albeit the only way he can do that and save his friends is by marrying man-eater Katisha (Mandi Symonds). Ms Symonds gives a gutsy performance as the voluptuous vamp and reminded me a little of Princess Puffer (a role played by Wendi Peters) in the recent production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood which had a highly successful run both at the Landor Theatre and the Arts Theatre. There are some wonderful scenes between Katisha and Ko-Ko, in particular their song “Beauty in the Bellow”.

Victoria Farley steals the limelight in her role as Yum-Yum who falls for ardent admirer Nanki-Poo (Mark Daley), son of the all powerful Mikado, but any hope of marital bliss is quashed early in their romance when under the terms of their marriage, Nanki-Poo will be executed within a month, meaning his wife will be sentenced to a horrible death too. Ms Farley gives an enchanting performance as a starry-eyed lover who is initially torn between marrying her beloved or sacrificing their happiness. Mark Daley gives a similarly show-stopping performance as Yum-Yum’s tormented, angst-ridden suitor.

Simon Bishop shines in the role of the smooth, velvet toned Mikado, but you’ll have to wait until Act 2 to hear him sing “The Mikado Song” when he bursts onto the stage in a blaze of glory (there’s quite a build-up to his appearance). There are wonderful performances from The Gentlemen of Japan played by Craig Anderson, Mark Gillon, Alaric Green and Simon Victor who open the show. Nathaniel Morrison is exceptional in the role of Pooh-Bah. Morrison is a naturally gifted comedian who is clearly multi-talented and blessed with the most soulful, stunning voice – particularly evident in musical number “And the Drums Will Crash”. Piers Bate (Pish-Tush) also gives an outstanding performance.

Lucyelle Cliffe is perfectly cast as Pitti-Sing. I last watched Lucyelle perform in the hugely popular The Thing About Men at the Landor Theatre (directed by Andrew Keates). Lucyelle Cliffe is another tremendously gifted, animated performer whose natural ability lies within comedy - a powerful force in the West End, Off-West End shows and cabarets. Lucyelle has recently returned from Bahrain where she played the role of Frau Zeller in The Sound of Music. Lucyelle Cliffe possesses a natural 1940s look which works very well in the context and theme of this musical. Added to this is her distinct voice and impeccable comic timing. “For He’s Gonna Marry Yum-Yum” is the strongest song in the show matched with brilliant choreography from the whole cast.

Other credits must go to the Ladies of Japan: Rosie Ladkin, Laura-Beth Mortemore and Rachal Olivant and Ruthie Luff (Peep-Bo), for making Hot Mikado such a great show.

Every ounce of Hot Mikado sparkles and radiates a magical energy. The plot is based on the original Gilbert and Sullivan story of The Mikado but has been given a sizzling 1940’s makeover. Bell & Bowman’s interpretation possesses a war-time big band American theme. Hot Mikado is a re-fashioned take on the well-known original storyline and it races along with comedic hilarity. Songs from Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical have been ingeniously re-worked into incredible, show-stopping swing, hot gospel and blues songs, in particular the brilliant “Three Little Maids” sung by Lucyelle Cliffe, Ruthie Luff and Victoria Farley. The Landor Theatre’s resident award-winning Artistic Director Robert McWhir, has enhanced the 1940s theme by setting part of the production in Acme Radio Studio, skilfully conjuring the flavour of an early Sid Caesar show against a backdrop of Japanese design. Production Designer Nina Morley has crafted a set of large Japanese fans that sit delicately against the bright colourful costumes. Lighting Designer Richard Lambert and Associate Lighting Designer Maximilien Spielbichler have created rich vibrant tones, giving the illusion of a palatial setting. Added to this are the exquisite costume designs, kiss curl hairstyles and ruby red of the era.

Director Robert McWhir is known for staging complex, fast-moving musicals in the intimate space of the crimson studio theatre, transforming interesting, sometimes obscure works into dazzling masterpieces. McWhir has a knack for taking a large cast and bold choreographed routines to create the illusion of a Hollywood spectacular. In particular, his recent production of Kander & Ebb’s Curtains was utterly charming to the point where theatregoers returned to see the same show several times. Hot Mikado has been approached in a similar way with the cast performing in electrifying dynamic dance routines by Choreographer Robbie O’Reilly (Artistic Director of the London Studio Centre’s Jazz Dance Company, as well as being the Artistic Director for Emotion Dance Company). Robbie’s work is legendary in both the West End and Off-West End shows and her credits include choreography for Cabaret (Wimbledon Theatre), Cats (UK Tour) and The Glorious Ones (Landor Theatre) – to name a few. Robbie was part of the original London company of Chicago (playing and covering) Roxie Hart, Mama Morton and Velma Kelly.

The five-piece band under the terrific musical direction of Michael Webborn sounds more like a grand ten-piece swing band. Webborn (Musical Director/Keyboard) whose recent credits include the highly successful, afore-mentioned Curtains at the Landor Theatre flits from soul routines to blues, swing and torch songs in these catchy, albeit difficult numbers. The sound quality and pitch is just right and each song skips along at quite a pace. Michael accompanies Fraiser Patterson (Reed – Alto Saxophone/Flute/Clarinet), Sam Lewis (Trumpet), Sandy Suchodolski (Double Bass/Electric Bass) and Gareth Dylan Smith (Drums/Percussion). Michael Webborn is a highly accomplished Musical Director, Arranger, Composer and Accompanist. Michael has appeared at the Lyric Lounge with the cast of Spring Awakening (Lyric Hammersmith) and has been in Radio 4 performances of White Chameleon. Michael’s other credits include working alongside David Tennant and David Hare on Murder in Samarkand and he has worked as an accompanist for Guildford School of Acting, Trinity Laban and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Once again the Landor Theatre has created another Five Star hit in what is pure theatrical magic for friends and family. Don’t you dare miss this! Showing for one more week (until Saturday 3rd November).

Shows start at 7:30 p.m. each night with a matinee on Saturday 3rd November at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets cost £20 but do check Twitter for ticket deals: @LandorTheatre

Box Office: 020 7737 7276 (24hr answering machine service)
Our box office is located at the rear of the Landor Pub: 70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH. The box office is open one hour before the start of each performance (During performance weeks only)

The Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road,
London SW9 9PH

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