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Hot Mikado updates classic operetta with jazz and anime-inspired design

Theatre UCF’s production of Hot Mikado brings a unique design concept to the show and to the company: Japanese anime. Based on The Mikado, a comedic 1880s operetta which follows young lovers living in a fictional Japanese town where acts as small as flirting are a capital crime, Hot Mikado sets the original story and lyrics to a jazz-infused score with big, flashy dance numbers. A self-professed lover of “all things Japanese,” director Earl D. Weaver brings Theatre UCF’s upcoming production into the world of anime, using manga comics, kawaii culture and J-pop music videos as inspiration for the over-the-top designs.

Hot Mikado is typically set in a 1940s Chicago-style night club, fitting for the jazz, swing and blues music that drives the show. In looking to bring new life to the material, Weaver turned to the design team and said, “What if this were set in a club where it’s Japanese anime night?” The team immediately jumped on this idea and the designers got to work creating a distinctive design.

Joshua Kimball as Nanki-Poo Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Jamonte Bruten as Katisha Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan
Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan

As the team began to explore the style of Japanese culture, the visual concept for the show began to take form. “It started with looking at silhouettes of traditional Japanese architecture but we began thinking about more modern landscapes,” says Marian Jones, scenic designer for the show. “To represent the lighthearted nature of the club, we took inspiration from the iconic style of kawaii culture.” Kawaii is the culture of cuteness in Japan, best known by global audiences in pop culture phenomena like Hello Kitty or Pokémon.

Maddie Walker, a junior in the musical theatre program, plays “super sweet, but a little bit sassy” club headliner, Yum-Yum. She describes one of her eccentric costumes, designed by UCF costume and makeup professor, Huaixiang Tan, as an homage to the world of Hello Kitty and other beloved cat characters in Japanese culture. “Each of us wears an enormous, colorful pigtail wig topped with a cat bow,” says Walker. “The costumes also nod to traditional Japanese style with Kimono-inspired outfits that are cut to give them a fun and flirty anime look.”

Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan Costume Rendering by Huaixiang Tan
Scenic Rendering by Marian Jones

Weaver explains that Hot Mikado sets the mood from the start, with the first time audience members see the anime-inspired set and the beautiful costumes. The jazz arrangements provide “that big band sound,” instantly fusing Japanese art and culture with 1940s’ American music. These elements come together to tell The Mikado’s familiar themes: insane politicians, social class divides and forbidden romance.

“Most of all its just a fun time at the club,” says Weaver. “The music is outrageously fantastic and there are a lot of funny moments in it.”

Walker’s hopes for the audience? “You’ll walk out being blown away with the concept with the show. It is so unexpected, fun and silly that you just have to come and experience it for yourself!”

Hot Mikado
Book and lyrics adapted by David H. Bell
Music adapted and arranged by Rob Bowman
Based on The Mikado by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan

October 11-21
Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday performances at 2 p.m.

A post-show reception will immediately follow the October 11 performance.
Please join us for a post-show panel discussion and talkback with members of the cast and crew following the performance on Sunday, October 14.

A hilarious update of Gilbert and Sullivan’s perennial classic, Hot Mikado combines Japanese design with popular American song and dance. In a land where laws sentence people to death for almost any indiscretion, jazz, blues and gospel are spoken fluently.

$20 standard, $10 UCF ID
Main Stage, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando
[email protected]