Black Mikado (1975)
Although this project was made to focus on American adaptations of The Mikado, it seems pertinent to at least mention, The Black Mikado. The Black Mikado was a British production that originally aired in 1975 at the Cambridge theater in London. The production is especially vital in reference to other all-Black casted adaptations (technically The Black Mikado was a near all-Black casted production, the exception being a White actor who played Pooh-Bah due to his veteran status with the Cambridge theater company). The show ran over 450 times at its original location before touring internationally for a single year.
Unlike the 1939 The Hot Mikado and the 1986 Hot Mikado, The Black Mikado strayed from the original fictional Japanese setting. The Black Mikado maintained much of Gilbert and Sullivan’s authentic librettos, but was set on an unnamed Caribbean island. However, the production did play into the same pseudo-Japanese costuming as Hot Mikado, with actors dressed in Caribbean fabrics made to mimic Japanese kimonos. Similar to The Hot Mikado and Hot Mikado, The Black Mikado re-orchestrated the opera’s original score to evoke rock, blues, reggae, and calypso.
The Black Mikado demonstrates a stark contrast to the commentary on prudish British culture that hides in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. The sexual tensions that underline the original opera are amped up and exploited in this adaptation.