Open main menu

The Hot Mikado (1939 production)

The Hot Mikado was a musical theatre adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado with an African-American cast. It was first produced by Mike Todd on Broadway in 1939. It starred Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the title role, with musical arrangements by Charles L. Cooke and direction by Hassard Short.

The Hot Mikado
Poster for The Hot Mikado
BookMike Todd
BasisGilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado
Productions1939 Broadway
1939 New York World's Fair
Bill Robinson in The Hot Mikado


Mike Todd produced The Hot Mikado after the Federal Theatre Project turned down his offer to manage the WPA production of The Swing Mikado (another all-black adaptation of The Mikado).[1][2] Todd's adaptation was jazzier than The Swing Mikado and had a "full-voiced, star-studded cast to back up its sass."[1][3] It follows both the story line of The Mikado and the spectacle of the original and was noted for its wild costuming.[2] "Rosa Brown's outfit, a winged dress with train and a gigantic hat, weighed thirty-five pounds."[1] The spectacle and jazzed-up score received enthusiastic reviews and drew audiences; "critic George Jean Nathan presented it as the 'best all-around musical show', named Nat Karson 'the season’s best costumer', and hailed two performers, Rosa Brown as 'best blues singer' and, to no one's surprise, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson as 'best hoofer.'"[1][4]


The musical was first produced at the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street from March 23, 1939, to June 3, 1939, running for 85 performances. The original cast included Bill "Bojangles" Robinson as The Mikado; Frances Brock as Pitti-Sing; Rosa Brown as Katisha; Maurice Ellis as Pooh-Bah; Eddie Green as Ko-Ko; Rosetta LeNoire as Peep-Bo; James A. Lilliard as Pish-Tush; Bob Parrish as Nanki-Poo; Gwendolyn Reyde as Yum-Yum; Freddie Robinson as Messenger Boy; and Vincent Shields as Red Cap. The orchestrations were arranged by Charles L. Cooke, and the production was directed by Hassard Short. Choreography was by Truly McGee.[5] Sets and costumes were designed by Nat Karson (1908–1954).[5][6]

Thirteen days after The Hot Mikado opened at the Broadhurst, The Swing Mikado – which had been running in New York since March 1, 1939, at the New Yorker Theatre on West 54th Street (the current site of Studio 54) – moved right across the street to the 44th Street Theatre.[7] According to The New York Times:

The 1939–1940 New York World's Fair production of The Hot Mikado lasted for two seasons and was reportedly one of the most popular attractions at the fair.[4][9] The show was produced on a large scale there, employing 150 actors.[10][11]

A summer-stock revival, including Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, produced by Cheryl Crawford, played for one week in 1941 at the Maplewood Theater, in Maplewood, New Jersey.[1]

Hot MikadoEdit

In the 1980s, disappointed that they could not find much of the script and arrangements for The Hot Mikado, writer David H. Bell and musician Rob Bowman created a new jazzy adaptation, Hot Mikado, that has been produced regularly since 1986.[10][12]

Selected videoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Mordden, p. 240
  2. ^ a b Weinberg-Harter, George. "Hot Mikado at Starlight Theatre" Archived 2013-02-01 at, San Diego Arts, June 25, 2006
  3. ^ Rowe, Billy. "Difference Between 'Hot' and 'Swing' Mikados – Billy Rowe Gives Courier Readers The Real Low Down", Pittsburgh Courier, May 20, 1939, p. 20
  4. ^ a b Cope, David J. "African Americans in 'The World of Tomorrow': 1939", Teacher Resources, The History of Jim Crow, accessed April 7, 2012
  5. ^ a b The Hot Mikado, Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 7, 2012
  6. ^ Nat Karson Designs, 1931–1949, collection at the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; OCLC 754643187
  7. ^ Waldorf, Wilella. "General 'Bojangles' Robinson Wins the Battle of 44th Street – Chicago's Swing Mikado Forces Retreat, Leaving the Field to the 'Hots'", New York Post, May 22, 1939, Sec A, p. 8
  8. ^ Roffman, Frederick S. "D'Oyly Carte Tradition vs. The Hot Mikado", The New York Times, May 2, 1976
  9. ^ "Bojangles Robinson and The Hot Mikado Take a Trip to the World's Fair", The New York Times, June 23, 1939
  10. ^ a b Shenton, Mark. Feature in Plays International (magazine) (, Vol. 10, No. 11, June 1995, pp. 10–11; ISSN 0268-2028
  11. ^ "200th Show for Hot Mikado", The New York Times, August 1, 1939
  12. ^ Weiss, Hedy. "David Bell revisits Hot Mikado for Drury Lane". Chicago Sun-Times, August 13, 2010


External linksEdit