The Hot Mikado (1939 production)

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This article is about the 1939 musical. For the 1986 musical, see Hot Mikado.
The Hot Mikado
Poster for The Hot Mikado
Book Mike Todd
Basis Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado
Productions 1939 Broadway
1939 New York World's Fair
Bill Robinson in The Hot Mikado

The Hot Mikado was a 1939 musical theatre adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado with an African-American cast. Mike Todd originally produced it 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]

The Hot Mikado was jazzier than The Swing Mikado and had a "full-voiced, star-studded cast to back up its sass."[1] 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 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][3]


The musical was first produced at the Broadhurst Theatre 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.[4] Sets and costumes were designed by Nat Karson.[4][5]

The musical was then produced at the 1939–1940 New York World's Fair for two seasons and was reportedly one of the most popular attractions at the fair.[3][6] The show was produced on a large scale there, employing 150 actors.[7][8]

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


  1. ^ a b c d e Mordden, p. 240
  2. ^ a b Weinberg-Harter, George. "Hot Mikado at Starlight Theatre", San Diego Arts, June 25, 2006
  3. ^ a b Cope, David J. "African Americans in 'The World of Tomorrow': 1939", Teacher Resources, The History of Jim Crow, accessed April 7, 2012
  4. ^ a b The Hot Mikado, Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 7, 2012
  5. ^ Nat Karson Designs, 1931–1949, collection at the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
  6. ^ "Bojangles Robinson and The Hot Mikado' Take a Trip to the World's Fair", The New York Times, June 23, 1939
  7. ^ Shenton, Mark. Feature in Plays International magazine, Vol. 10, No. 11, June 1995, pp. 10–11
  8. ^ "200th Show for Hot Mikado", The New York Times, August 1, 1939


  • Mordden, Ethan (2005). Sing For Your Supper. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 0-312-23951-3. 

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