This delightful and thoroughly entertaining drama set in London during the 1880s depicts the rescue of the troubled artistic partnership between William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan with the creation The Mikado. Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies) is the writer and director of this detailed biodrama that will appeal to all serious students of the creative process and the play of the imagination.
After years of cranking out the music for comic operas, composer Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) is burned-out and sickly. He decides to recover on the continent in what turns out to be a hedonistic trip. He also tells Richard D'Oyly Carte (Ron Cook) of the Savoy Theatre and Helen Lenoir (Wendy Nottingham), its business manager, that he will no longer be writing operettas with lyricist William Gilbert (Jim Broadbent in a tour de force performance.) He remains determined to keep to his decision when his hears his partner's ideas for a new work. Sullivan soundly criticizes the "topsy-turvy" elements of magic in it.
Meanwhile, Gilbert's loving but neglected wife Lucy (Lesley Manville) takes him to a Japanese exhibition and bingo! his creative juices start percolating. The resulting cross-cultural material inspires Sullivan, and the two begin another collaboration. Soon the singers at the Savoy Theatre are hard at work on an innovative production of The Mikado. In a set of rehearsals, the colorful members of the operetta cast, including Timothy Spall, Martin Savage, Kevin McKidd, Shirley Henderson, and Dorothy Atkinson, strut their stuff and reveal some of their deepest foibles and aspirations. Although Topsy-Turvy runs a tad too long, this is a first-class biodrama filled with a variety of captivating selections from The Mikado.