We are gentlemen of Japan!


What happens if you cross the satirical wit and sparkling melody of Gilbert & Sullivan with flashy waistcoats, tap dance, close harmony and a whole bucket of Brylcreem? You get Hot Mikado, that’s what you get, and that’s what I’m doing all this week, up at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury.

I play a fellow who delights in the name of Pish-Tush, the coolest Gentleman of Japan (or at least, that’s how he sees himself). I spend much of the show either sneering at the other characters in disdain or dancing my bright orange socks off – some of the time, I’m even doing both, which is an exciting challenge. The musical style of the show is rooted in the 1940s, with blues, swing, scat and scorching hot gospel combining to give the score an uplifting ‘zing’. The ‘Three Little Maids’ sing their number beautifully, in a close harmony arrangement which sounds like an Andrews Sisters number, and Katisha, the femme fatale, displays an amazing gospel voice which utterly blows me away even as Pish-Tush mocks and sneers at her.

I’m fairly certain that this show gives me more to do than any other recent show, even though Pish really is the most minor of the principals. In addition to a male trio where I take the top line and a quartet where I take the bass line (a ridiculous range from top note to bottom note is required!), I’m involved with all of the chorus numbers which gives me a wide variety of harmonic and choreographic challenges – my heart races so fast at the end of the first act, simply due to the high energy of the dance routine, that I worry for my health. Thankfully, I sit the big tap dance out (it’s really not in my skill set), and instead provide backing vocals for the number as I kowtow to the Mikado (the only person Pish-Tush remotely respects). My head is spinning with everything I have to remember, and there are still a couple of tricky corners which I’m not 100% confident about. Seven syllables of ‘Swing a Merry Madrigal’ will probably haunt my nightmares forever – how hard can it really be to sing “Hey bob-a-ree-bob swee-dee-pow”? Harder than you’d think! Still, exhausting as it is, I’m absolutely loving it. Putting it on before an audience for the next five days will be a complete and utter joy.

  1. Good luck. I’ve got that coming up next year. I wonder if anyone has tried Hot Mikado in a Manga setting…?

    • randomvic
    • June 17th, 2009

    Hope it all goes well!

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