Parodying contemporary British taste for all things Japanese, the original production of The Mikado played in London for two full years. In the town of Titipu, where flirting is a capital crime, the nervous nobles have appointed former prisoner Ko-Ko as Lord High Executioner. Condemned for flirting, Ko-Ko cannot execute anyone unless he beheads himself first. Offended by Ko-Ko's lowly origins, the town officials resign, and Pooh-Bah takes charge of all functions as Lord High Everything Else. Into this setting wanders an unknown minstrel, Nanki-Poo, disguised son of the mighty Mikado, who has displeased his father by refusing to marry elderly Katisha. Nanki-Poo seeks Yum-Yum, the beautiful, self-absorbed ward of Ko-Ko, who is to marry her protector shortly.
Learning of the upcoming marriage, Nanki-Poo is preparing to hang himself in despair when an edict arrives from the Mikado warning that Titipu is overdue for an execution. Ko-Ko devises a clever plan to marry Yum-Yum to Nanki-Poo for one month, after which the groom will be executed, fulfilling the Mikado's order and leaving the bride free to marry Ko-Ko. Hilarious complications ensue, and when the Mikado discovers that his son has apparently been beheaded, Ko-Ko must marry Katisha to escape execution. Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo, alive and secretly wedded, emerge from hiding and Ko-Ko uses his zany, illogical reasoning to appease the Mikado.
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