Reprinted from The Independent Weekly

Hot Mikado
Raleigh Little Theatre
Through Aug. 31

“If Gilbert and Sullivan could see me now!” proclaims the Mikado (Warren Keyes), the title character of the nonsensical-but-entertaining, jazzed-up opera Hot Mikado. To give you some context: The original Mikadowas an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan that satirized British politics through a Japanese setting, whose creation was told in the award-winning film Topsy-Turvy. Hot Mikado redoes the songs and outfits in the style of the 1920s. So you have an Americanized version of a British play about Japan. Got that?

Hot Mikado sticks close to the already-ridiculous plot of the original Mikado. Set against an impressive faux-Japanese backdrop, it’s a classic forbidden love story involving Nanki-Poo (Jason Justice), who falls for Yum-Yum (Katherine Anderson), who happens to be promised to the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko (Tony Hefner). Much of the humor revolves around the characters trying to find loopholes around the Mikado’s rules about flirting, marriage and regular executions in a way that lets everyone live happily ever after.

The show is a bizarre mixture of many types of comedy and storytelling, but it’s all done with energy and color. Hefner is terrific as the deadpan Ko-Ko, as is LaDawna Akins as the irate Katisha—thankfully, both characters are highlighted in the second act. The overall result is slight but quite fun in places—and hopefully, it will encourage theatergoers to sample the actual works of Gilbert and Sullivan. —Zack Smith