In With the Old, Out Comes the New

As we’ve discussed before, creativity comes with a great deal of getting inspired, borrowing, and sometimes straight out stealing.

But who is to say that a derivative work cannot be equally as satisfying as the original? As long as the pieces are different enough, is it fair to say a certain one is better?

Take for instance the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera  The Mikado. The composers set the opera in Japan, far away from Britain, allowing them to satirize British politics more freely by disguising them as foreign notions.

Opera Australia’s 2011 production of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.

In 1939, the classic was adapted into a new piece entitled The Hot Mikado and performed with an all African-American cast. Primed with a lot more sass and a lot more swing, The Hot Mikado became a hit that is still performed to this day.

Now it’s been over 70 years since the original piece was given a facelift. Thus, theatres are still looking for ways to update the show and help it feel as novel and sexy as it was when The Hot Mikado first took the stage.

This recent production does just this by updating the 1940s American setting to a modern one that tips its hat to the original Mikado, complete with the “three little maids” in anime-style schoolgirl outfits. Up to you to decide which version you prefer – but I’d say there’s definitely room for both in the world of live performance.


Watermill Theatre’s production of The Hot Mikado in 2009