‘Hot Mikado’ a swinging version of original musical

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Deirdre Parker Smith
Salisbury Post
You may recognize a little bit of “Three Little Maids” and the story might be vaguely familiar, but this is not your father’s “Mikado.”
This is “Hot Mikado,” a swinging version that takes place in 1940s Titipu, the mythical sixth borough of New York.
Piedmont Players’ production benefits from veteran performers, a lively band and eye-popping costumes.
Back on the Piedmont stage is Tara Van Geons, as the lovely Yum-Yum, the object of desire for Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poo.
Rodney McAllister is charming and funny as Ko-Ko, and his on-stage experience shows. He’s also the choreographer.
Van Geons has cute and cluelessly sweet down pat and a nice voice to match her songs.
Newcomer Alex Yost is working hard, but he speaks faster than a speeding train. If he slows down, we can all follow along.
Another veteran, Michelle Fleshman-Cross, lends a strong voice and stage presence as Pitti-Sing. Gigantic Tony Crawford is Pooh-Bah, minister of every cabinet position, chief judge and secretary of whatever you can imagine. That yellow suit makes him look like a very scary Big Bird.
A nice surprise comes in the form of the Mikado himself, high ruler, who struts in in a white tux, top hat and tails. George Trueblood enunciates, shuffles convincingly and even sings.
The story, well, it’s a tiny bit convoluted. Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poo both love Yum-Yum. Ko-Ko, now the Lord High Executioner (he got out of a death sentence by becoming head head-chopper), gets orders from the Mikado to behead somebody and soon! He suggests Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum, and at the end of the month, he will behead him and then marry Yum-Yum himself.
You can just imagine the complications that arise from this simple plan.
One of them bursts onto stage with a rumble of music and a voice like thunder, Katisha, the, um, older lady who’s in love with Nanki-Poo. And she knows his big secret, although an extended musical number keeps her from telling it too soon. Look for a surprise.Alexis Greer can sing. Wow. We can’t always understand her, but she sounds great. Makes you want to shout “Amen!” And she’s an impressive figure, too.
Another great voice belongs to Robin Allen, Peep-Bo. And veteran Jamison Middlemiss is Pish-Tush.
A cast of thousands supports them, dancing, singing, spreading joy.
The oversize, lollipop colored, pin-stripe suits on the men make them all look rather silly. The women, some in Japanese-inspired dresses, are bright, but almost pale next to the fellows.
And there’s a whole lot of singing going on ó most of the show is song, with just a little dialogue thrown in. All of the music is toe-tapping, with a jazzy beat, or soul-searing, like those good, old torch songs.
A minimal but evocative set by Director Reid Leonard provides the backdrop for this Japanese kingdom in New York City.
Virgie Taylor directs the band of Alex Council, Mike Austin, Reese Manceaux, Mark Richards, Charlie Fisher (tonight and April 11 only) and John Harding.
With intermission, the two-act musical runs just at two hours. It started off a little slow opening night, but picked up. Let’s hope everyone remembers to speak and sing clearly ó it’s a bigger theater than it looks. The play is suitable for the whole family, with its Disneyesque look and boy-meets-girl plot.
“Hot Mikado” continues tonight and Saturday and April 9-12 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. matinee this Sunday. It is underwritten by Salisbury Coatings and Mid-Carolina Electric. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.