is a 1999 film written and directed by Mike Leigh
that focuses on the partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan
when they reach a crossroads in their career.
After earning disappointing reviews for Princess Ida
, Sir Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) decides to unilaterally dissolve his partnership with William Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) creating comic operas for the Savoy Theatre. To get his mind off his troubles, Gilbert's wife, Kitty, drags him to the Japanese Village in Knightsbridge and he is inspired to write The Mikado
. What follows is a comprehensive story of how the play was developed such as how it was written, how Sullivan prepared the music and the singing and how Gilbert dealt with the choreography, costuming and dealing with actors and their occasional moments of temperament.Topsy-Turvy
was nominated for four Academy Awards
and won for Best Costume Design and Makeup.
Tropes Associated With This Work:
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: The film's "R" rating apparently comes from just one gratuitous scene with some topless burlesque dancers; there's hardly any other offensive content at all.
- Bad Bad Acting: During rehearsals, the script supervisor Seymour fills in for two actors who are absent that day. His performance is ribbed by Gilbert and the remaining actors.
- Bowdlerize: The film omits the third stanza of the Mikado's solo. This may be partly for time considerations, but also probably has something to do with the fact that the verse as originally performed contains an N-word reference, which was eventually expunged in 1940.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mr D'Auban, the choreographer.
- Comedy Ghetto: In universe. Sullivan's motive for wanting to move away from comic operas to more serious fare, such as symphonies.
- Creative Differences: This is the essential problem for Gilbert and Sullivan with the latter tired with the fantasy musical comedies Gilbert keeps writing, while Gilbert doesn't see what the problem is with his creations.
- Costume Drama
- Depraved Dentist: A dentist pulls one of Gilbert's teeth apparently without anesthetic. To make matters worse, though, the dentist then goes on to remark that Princess Ida is "too long"— a point Gilbert is sore about — while Gilbert has his mouth forced closed so he's unable to respond!
- Drugs Are Bad: We see George Grossmith hiding in his dressing room to use morphine before the first performance.
- Eureka Moment: Gilbert is inspired to write The Mikado when a mounted samurai sword falls off his wall.
- Gilligan Cut: Gilbert says he would not visit the Japanese exhibition, "not for all the tea in China". The next scene is of him and Kitty wandering around it.
- In a previous scene, Gilbert says "I would rather go to a Turkish bath with my grandmother than go to the blasted dentist." His wife nods. Cut to Gilbert in the dentist's chair.
- Girl Friday: Helen Lenoir to Richard D'Oyly Carte.
- Heh Heh, You Said X: Sullivan chuckles when Gilbert reads the play's subtitle, "The Town of Titipu." (Of course, knowing Gilbert, that's probably quite intentional Getting Crap Past the Radar.)
- Last Name Basis: By the time of the film, Gilbert and Sullivan have worked together for thirteen years but still refer to each other by their surnames (this was normal in Victorian Britain).
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Only Sane Man: D'Oyly Carte, in managing his business, has to contend with both reluctant Sullivan and stubborn Gilbert, as well as all the actors employed in their operettas.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-universe. Actor Durward Lely is a Scotsman who affects a posh Southern English accent on stage and in most of his public dealings. Except when angered.
- Potty Emergency: Two actors get food poisoning from bad oysters and feel the effects during separate meetings with the owner of the Savoy Theatre.
- The Prima Donna: While many of the senior members of the acting troupe have prima donna tendencies, the worst offender is the troupe's choreographer, Mr D'Auban.
- Sexless Marriage: William and Kitty Gilbert is portrayed as sexless and rather strained, particularly as she wants children and he's not prepared to have any. It's questionable how much of this was true in real life, where the Gilberts were reportedly a doting couple. By contrast, Sullivan and his lover, Fanny Ronalds, are highly sexual as well as affectionate, and arrange an abortion when she accidentally falls pregnant.
- Scifi Ghetto: Sullivan was also tired of the fantasy plot devices Gilbert used in his stories and wanted something more "probable."
- Show Within a Show : Type 1, the production of the Mikado
- Shown Their Work: Some of the characters reminisce about their past roles or sing parts of solos from other shows. Yes, in real life, those characters did indeed originate those roles.
- Quoth IMDb, "Most modern recordings and performances of the Mikado's solo, 'A More Humane Mikado' feature a bloodthirsty laugh between the verses. This touch was added by Darrel Fancourt, a D'Oyly Carte performer from 1920-1953, and has been copied ever since - which is why the laugh is not performed by Richard Temple (Timothy Spall)."
- Shout-Out: Gilbert complains that Sullivan wants to write a serious opera about "a prostitute dying of consumption in a garret," an obvious nod to Verdi's La Traviata.
- Gilbert also drops quotes from Shakespeare into his conversation, as he was known to do.
- Sophisticated as Hell:
Temple: One should be rewarded on one's merits, not on one's ability to ingratiate oneself with the management, particularly when the management have difficulty in locating the relative whereabouts of the arse and the elbow.
- The Show Must Go On: Despite painful kidney disease, Sullivan rouses himself out of bed to conduct the orchestra on Princess Ida's opening night.
- Those Two Guys: Lely and Temple.
- Victorian London