Q&A with Hot Mikado’s Tisha Kelemen

  1. Tell us about the show! What’s Hot Mikado about?

How much time do you have?  The story is a doozy – essentially its about people looking for love and going to extraordinary lengths to get love including agreeing to be executed!  In the midst of it all there are city “officials” trying to get away with not committing murder, sassy sisters who know how to have fun and a supremely divine spurned lover seeking revenge!

  1. Hot Mikado is an adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic The Mikado. How are the two shows different?

The plot line does not stray very much from the original story.  Where the Hot Mikado comes into its own is the score.  It is quite literally HOT!  A blend of jazz, gospel, torch songs and be bop.  The close harmony arrangements are to die for.  We have a small but mighty cast – and it was amazing to hear 6 part harmonies coming from about 25 people.  I was tapping my toes in time to the music the minute I heard it!   Another big difference is the dance numbers.  Steph Edmonds has created some amazing high energy numbers that make me gasp for breath – and I’m only watching them!

  1. You’re playing The Mikado, a role traditionally played by a male baritone. How cool is that?

Very!  There are so few roles for my {demographic} in Musical Theatre (aka not young nor an ingénue) so having a Director who is willing to consider non-traditional casting opens up so many more opportunities for people like me.  I love playing larger than life characters and who doesn’t love a dance number to boot!  So, when the opportunity came up to play this fab role that is not traditionally available to my gender – I jumped at it!

  1. How does the score sit in your voice? Have you and the musical director Andrew Bartle had to workshop any changes?

The original key sits in an unhappy place in my register and this style is a bit out of my comfort zone so thank goodness for Andrew Bartle.  Bartle is great to work with.  The way he teaches us the vibe of the music is amazing and he was very supportive in workshopping what would work for me in The Mikado Song.  

  1. Hot Mikado is a pretty funny comedy! What kind of humour have the cast and director Declan Moore been playing with in rehearsal? 

This show is very much a farce – it does not take itself too seriously!  Declan definitely is going down the route of tongue in cheek, physical comedy and visual gags which is super fun and something kids who come to the show will definitely love!   Working with Declan is very satisfying – he knows how to build and fill a scene with subtle and not so subtle cues which just adds so much interest to dialogue!   

  1. What’s your performance history? How long have you been singing, acting and dancing in musicals? 

I only started doing Musicals in Sydney since 2007 – my first role ever was playing Fransiska in CMS’ West Side Story.  I was 34 at the time!  It was only when I was cast as Mother Abbess in CMS’ Sound of Music in 2010 – it dawned on me that performing as a character, telling a story through song is really something I truly derive joy from doing.  And so I thought, better get better at the craft and took up singing lessons (which I still do to this day), took dance classes and read up on characterization techniques.  Ever since then, I try to do 1 or 2 (this year it is 3!) shows a year.     

  1. How on earth do you juggle having a full time job and doing so many shows?

Whatever is a priority, you make time for.  Performing is my mental health priority, and I make time for it.   I also am very careful to not allow performances interfere with work and have become very good at managing my work & travel commitments with my show commitments. I also do not over commit myself.  Trying to do too much only results in potentially letting people down.  I do not want that reputation.    

  1. Why should audiences come and see Hot Mikado? 

In a word – the show is so much FUN!  The musical numbers are heaven, the dance numbers are explosive and the characters are just downright funny.   Its an evening of escapist entertainment – to laugh out loud with no agenda.  What can be better than that?

Hot Mikado runs at The Independent Theatre, North Sydney from 22 Sept to 1 Oct