Thank god the stage is covered with giant fans, because this musical is smokin'! David Bell's adaptation of "The Swing Mikado," a 1938 African-American version of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, has an apt title. The orchestrations, choreography, vocal work and even the acting are all scorching hot.
The plot is exactly like that of the original operetta. Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel, arrives in town looking for his love, Yum Yum. She happens to be the ward and intended bride of Ko Ko, the Lord High Executioner. Soon it is revealed that Nanki-Poo is secretly the son of the Mikado and is trying to escape the clutches of a possessive vamp named Katisha. The story provides many twists and turns but everything works out happily in the end.
Bell directs his own work with the kind of genius we've come to expect from this master of the musical theatre. A mixture of zoot suits, snoods, wedgies and just a touch of Japanese silk enliven Marcus Stephens' neon-colored Japanese and Art Deco influenced set. Andrew Sisters-like harmonies, swing, gospel, blues, jazz and even rock and roll musical styles spice up a production that spotlights athletic choreography for the entire ensemble.
The stellar cast includes Broadway hoofer Ted Louis Levy, a white-suited Cab Calloway, in the title role, Stephen Schellhardt as a Groucho Marx-like Ko Ko, Summer Naomi Smart bringing sweetness, sass and sex appeal to Yum Yum, handsome crooner/dancer Devin DeSantis as Nanki-Poo and Aurelia Williams as the zaftig, belting Katisha.
Supported by a multi-talented ensemble, that includes the fabulous Susan Moniz as a no-nonsense, full-throated Pitti-Sing and Andy Lupp's stylish Pish-Tush, Bell has given Chicago the perfect sizzling summer souvenir to bring Drury Lane's season of the director to a close.