Swing version of The Mikado in 2 acts: Swing orchestration by Charles L. Cooke. Original production opened 23 March, 1939; Broadhurst Theatre, New York (85 perfs)
Revised version: Book and lyrics by David H. Bell. Music adapted and arranged by Rob Bowman. Originally Produced at Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC, Frankie Hewitt, Producing Director. Based on The Mikado by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
East meets West head-on in this hilarious 1940's-style updating of the perennial Gilbert and Sullivan classic. With the music transmuted into blues, Cab Calloway swing, hot gospel, scorching torch songs and 'Three Little Maids' turned into an Andrew Sisters' show-stopper, this zoot-suited, tap-dancing colourful show is certain to provide the ideal evening out for the whole family.
The lights rise on the mahogany and neon town of Titipu, where the zoot-suited gentlemen of Japan are swinging, scatting, and living their lives in song. They are interrupted by the entrance of Nanki-Poo, a fresh-faced rock-crooner who demands to know where to find Yum-Yum, the beautiful ward of a tailor named Ko-Ko. Nanki-Poo explains that he met Yum-Yum a year ago while playing second trumpet – an instrument that he plays without much talent - in the Titipu big band. It was love at first sight, but hopeless, since she was engaged to her older guardian, Ko-Ko. However, Nanki-Poo has recently heard the happy news that Ko-Ko has been condemned to death by the almighty Mikado for breaking the law against flirting, and has rushed to Titipu in order to marry Yum-Yum.
Nanki-Poo is informed by the extremely cool Pish-Tush and Pooh-Bah that Ko-Ko has since been freed by the people of Titipu and made Lord High Executioner, its highest ranking official. Pooh-Bah, who became Lord High “everything else” after all the other officials resigned in protest, also offers (for a small fee) the information that Yum-Yum and Ko-Ko are slated for marriage that very day. Nanki-Poo determines he must find Yum-Yum at all costs before the wedding takes place.
Ko-Ko ceremoniously enters proclaiming his enthusiasm for ridding society of Ragtime Serenaders, Recluses, Revivalists, and any other offenders on his list. As Ko-Ko bribes Pooh Bah’s multiple official positions into giving him wedding advice, Yum-Yum enters with her two scatting sisters, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Ko-Ko tries to kiss his unwilling bride-to-be when Yum-Yum suddenly collides into Nanki-Poo. The love-struck trumpet player begs her to turn down Ko-Ko and marry him instead, but Yum-Yum points out that a wandering minstrel is hardly a suitable husband for a ward of the Lord High Executioner. Nanki-Poo confesses to her that he is, in fact, no musician – instead, he is the son of the Mikado himself! He had been forced to flee for his life to Titipu when Katisha, an older woman in the Mikado’s court, claimed him in marriage under the Mikado’s flirting law. While Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum realise that the law prohibits them from ever gazing into each others’ eyes and breathing sighs of unutterable love, they still sneak one regretful kiss.
Ko-Ko, trying in vain to soliliquise, receives a letter from the Mikado stipulating that unless someone is beheaded within a month, his position will be abolished and Titipu reduced to village status. Since Ko-Ko is already under sentence of death for flirting, Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush suggest that he simply execute himself. Ko-Ko points out that not only is self-decapitation difficult, but that suicide is a capital offence. He tries to appoint Pooh-Bah as Lord High Substitute, but Pooh-Bah declines the honour. With no one willing to act as a volunteer, Ko-Ko is left to figure out a solution.
The solution arrives in the person of Nanki-Poo, who, devastated that Ko-Ko is going to marry the girl he loves, is searching for a tree in order to hang himself. Nanki-Poo is persuaded by Ko-Ko to be his substitute on the chopping block, but on one condition: that Yum-Yum be his bride until he is beheaded at the end of the month. Ko-Ko grudgingly consents to the marriage, and there is much rejoicing by all.
Suddenly, Katisha appears, claiming Nanki-Poo for herself. She is informed by Pitti-Sing and the rest of the company that unfortunately her request can’t be fulfilled because of his forthcoming wedding. Katisha soulfully mourns her lonely fate before spitefully attempting to reveal Nanki-Poo’s true identity. Yum-Yum, anticipating her intentions, drowns her out in song. A vengeful Katisha is finally pushed offstage by a celebratory ensemble, which insists that nothing should be permitted to ruin the festivities to come.
The women prepare Yum-Yum for the forthcoming wedding behind lowered shades as the men stare at the pretty bride-to-be’s silhouette. Yum-Yum contemplates, in her artless Japanese way, how much more attractive she is than anyone else in the entire world, but her happiness is shattered when she’s reminded that her husband is to be beheaded in a month. Nanki-Poo suggests that time is purely arbitrary – if each ‘second’ is called a ‘minute’, they’ve got thirty years of married happiness before them. As the wedding procession begins, the company unsuccessfully endeavours to look on the bright side of the situation.
Before the wedding can take place, Ko-Ko announces his latest discovery: he will not be able to marry Yum-Yum after all, since according to the Mikado’s law, when a married man is beheaded, his wife must be buried alive! Nanki-Poo realises that by insisting on the wedding, he dooms Yum-Yum to a hideous death. However, if he releases her from her promise, she must marry Ko-Ko at once! To Ko-Ko’s dismay, Nanki-Poo decides the only way to solve the problem is to hang himself as he originally planned.
Pooh Bah announces the approach of none other than the Mikado himself, causing Ko-Ko to insist Nanki-Poo honour his contract and die by the hands of the Lord High Executioner. To his surprise, Nanki-Poo accepts. Ko-Ko admits that in truth, he is incapable of killing even a fly - he had always thought his duties as Lord High Executioner were purely nominal. To convince the Mikado that his orders have been followed, Ko-Ko suggests that they create a certificate of Nanki-Poo’s execution, witnessed by all the officials of Titipu (a.k.a. Pooh-Bah - for some cold hard cash). However, Nanki-Poo must promise to leave and never return. Nanki-Poo agrees to do so only on the condition that he marry Yum-Yum immediately.
The Mikado, a cool cat who believes the punishment should always fit the crime, demonstrates how to tap any troubles away. Ko-Ko informs him that the demanded execution has taken place, but quickly finds out the Mikado has come about another matter – his son, who ran away a year ago, has been masquerading in Titipu disguised as a second trumpet player. Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing try to convince the Mikado that Nanki-Poo is in Cleveland, but Katisha discovers his name on the execution certificate. The Mikado, understanding that Nanki-Poo’s true identity had been kept a secret, regretfully points out that the punishment for killing the Heir Apparent doesn’t take this into consideration. It is decided that after lunch, Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah will die in boiling oil.
Ko-Ko realizes that Nanki-Poo must be brought back to life immediately. However, Katisha would then insist on the execution of the newly-wed Nanki-Poo, causing Yum-Yum to be buried alive. Nanki-Poo suggests the ultimate solution – Ko-Ko must marry Katisha! Ko-Ko is reluctant – even Katisha’s famed left shoulder blade can’t make up for her plain face – but when Nanki-Poo insists this is the only way he will “reappear” in Titipu, Ko-Ko sets off to win Katisha’s heart.
Katisha wonders why death refuses to come and bring peace to her broken heart as Ko-Ko springs into action, telling her that he’ll die on the spot if she doesn’t accept his love. Katisha claims no one has ever died of a broken heart, so Ko-Ko responds with the tragic tale of Tit-Willow, a little bird who wasted away due to blighted affection. Katisha is touched by the story, and the two realise they are a perfect couple.
As the Mikado prepares to boil Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah in oil, Katisha begs him to show them mercy, particularly since she is so koo-koo for Ko-Ko, she has gone and married him. The Mikado is understanding, but mentions that this does not solve the problem – the Heir Apparent is still slain. With that, the Heir Apparent himself appears, along with the Mikado’s new daughter-in-law, causing everything to fall happily into place as the Mikado calls the show to an end
- Overture - Orchestra
- We Are Gentlemen Of Japan - Gentlemen
- A Wand'ring Minstrel I - Nanki-Poo & Gentlemen
- And the Drums Will Crash - Pooh-Bah & Gentlemen
- Behold the Lord High Executioner - Ko-Ko & Gentlemen
- I've Got a Little List - Ko-Ko & Gentlemen
- Three Little Maids - Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo & Pitti-Sing
- This Is What I'll Never Do - Nanki-Poo & Yum-Yum
- I Am So Proud - Pooh-Bah, Ko-Ko & Pish-Tush
- Let the Throng Our Joy Advance - Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo, Pish-Tush, Pitti-Sing, Pooh-Bah, Junior & Ensemble
- Katisha's Entrance - Katisha
- For He's Gonna Marry Yum-Yum - Pitti-Sing & Ensemble
- The Hour of Gladness - Katisha
- Finale - Act One - Entire Company
- Entr'acte - Orchestra
- Braid the Raven Hair - Junior & Ensemble
- The Sun and I - Yum-Yum
- Swing a Merry Madrigal - Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing, Nanki-Poo, Pish-Tush, & Ensemble
- Here's a Howdy-Do - Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo & Ko-Ko
- The Mikado’s Song - The Mikado & Ensemble
- Alone and Yet Alive - Katisha
- Tit-Willow - Ko-Ko
- Beauty In the Bellow of the Blast - Katisha, Ko-Ko
- Finale - Entire Company
- Playout - Orchestra
4 female, 5 male
- The Mikado - The big "cat" of Japan.
- Nanki-Poo - The son of Mikado - has to be able to play the trumpet (badly)
- Yum-Yum - The ward of Titipu's Lord High Executioner.
- Pitti-Sing - Yum-Yum's Sister
- Peep-Bo - Yum-Yum's Sister
- Pish-Tush - The "coolest" Gentleman of Japan
- Ko-Ko - Lord High Executioner
- Pooh-Bah - Lord High "everything else"
- Katisha - Nanki-Poo's spurned suitor
6 Gentlemen of Japan :
3 Ladies of Japan
Reed (flute, clarinet, alto sax), trumpet db. flugelhorn db tambourine, on-stage trumpet, trombone db. cowbells, keyboards (1 player), drums db. percussion, double bass db. electric bass