Hot Mikado | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Hot Mikado, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Some musical hybrids prove hardier than others: David H. Bell's marriage of swing rhythms and Victorian enthusiasm for all things Japanese improbably invigorates his 1986 Hot Mikado (partly inspired by two 1937 African-American versions of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic). Though Sullivan's up-tempo melodies are almost unrecognizable in adapter Rob Bowman's syncopated arrangements, and Gilbert's caricatures seem even odder once the characters become hep cats in zoot suits, Bell's triumphant revival proves how much he got right the first time. The whole may not be greater than the sum of its influences, but it's surely equal to them.

Nancy Missimi's costumes straddle the places and eras; jitterbugging courtiers are bedecked with oriental embellishments. And it doesn't matter that the town of Titi-Pu has morphed into a kind of Ginza-district Cotton Club--all the stereotypes are strictly Broadway/Hollywood. Susan Moniz reprises her role as Yum-Yum, the self-absorbed soubrette, crooning in an Andrews Sisters-style trio. As the Mikado, Ted L. Levy becomes a Nipponese version of Cab Calloway, and as the young hero, Adam Jacobs bridges the gap between Dick Powell and Frank Sinatra. Returning as the unlikeliest lovers ever to scorch a stage are clown prince Ross Lehman and scat-blues mistress Felicia P. Fields, proving that, under penalty of death, a lord high executioner can still make a courtly harridan love him. Unfortunately their crack-up during "Tit-Willow" is contrived, going beyond even Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show.

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