Hot Mikado (1986)
In 1986, disappointed with the lack of surviving librettos and musical arrangements from the 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, David H. Bell and Rob Bowman created the smashing success, Hot Mikado. Although the show stayed true to the original Mikado’s fictional Japanese setting, the all African-American production took inspiration from 1940’s American aesthetics and popular music. Japanese architecture was paired with the textures of the cotton club (ie… brass, neon, etc…); signature kimono silks were crafted to make vibrant zoot suits, snoods, wedgies, and felt hats; and Gilbert and Sullivan’s original scores were re-orchestrated to resemble jazz, blues, swing, rock, and hot gospel music. The result was a sort of pseudo-Japanese aesthetic. While the musical arrangements were altered to resemble these music genres, the original dialogue stayed much the same.
Hot Mikado is one of the, if not the, longest running adaptation of The Mikado. The photo on the left was taken at a 2009 performance of Hot Mikado in Blackburn, England. While the suit and hat styles are distinctly Western, the vibrant colors and fans are certainly reminiscent of the pseudo-Japanese aesthetic that is inherent to the original opera. On the far right side of the photo a cherry blossom is also present to summon an older Japanese environment or garden atop the setting of modern, rigid buildings.
The image on the depicts cast members from the D'Oyly Carte production, 1885 and provides context for the costume design alterations made in Hot Mikado.
The critically acclaimed Hot Mikado continues to be revived across the United States. Since the majority of the original libretto remains unchanged (for example the characters’ names are kept and the opening song still sings “We are Gentleman of Japan”), Hot Mikado receives similar backlash as The Mikado. Regardless of its alterations to the original opera, Hot Mikado recycles the same cultural appropriations and facets (such as made-up names) that are falsely attributed to Japanese culture.