Review by Dave Smith
The unlikely partnership of William Gilbert with Arthur Sullivan gave birth to some surprising results. In the late 1800's these two men, almost complete opposites in personalities, produced a series of highly popular comic operettas which are still being performed and enjoyed today. Their names have become part of world folklore..."Gilbert and Sullivan." So much so, that Gilbert's satiric and facetious wit with lyrics added the adjective, "Gilbertian" to our language. Topsy-Turvy is the story of this strange and strained partnership and how these two talented people produced a series of musical masterpieces. Mike Leigh, who is certainly better known in England than in the United States, has put together a perfect cast for this very entertaining film. Leigh not only directed, but wrote the screenplay as well. Jim Broadbent is the eccentric, bombastic, doubting Gilbert. Allan Corduner is the frail, but sociable Sullivan. Sullivan was a composer of more classical type tunes ("The Lost Chord"). Gilbert was a writer of comic and absurd tales. The two got together and, with the help of impressario Richard D'Oyly Carte, collaborated on a series of hugely popular operettas. The most popular was "The Mikado" which came about as a result of a disagreement when Sullivan objected to the same old "Topsy Turvy" plots Gilbert kept writing. Gilbert, seeing a Japanese exhibition in England, decided this was just the thing to breath new life into their work. Most Americans may be more familiar with "The Pirates of Penzance" which was a hit on Broadway in 1982. It was an early vehicle for Kevin Kline, a graduate of the Indiana University School of Music, who sang the lead. Linda Ronstadt was anxious to show off her multi-faceted talents, and played opposite Kline to good advantage. Both principals appeared in the film version. Kline went on to establish a highly successful film career as an actor since film musicals are no longer in vogue. Topsy-Turvy is delightful because of the cast, the direction, the wonderful music and costumes and the pace in which it moves. The film was named "Best Film" by the New York Film Critics Circle and Mike Leigh was named best director. However it garnered only three oscar nominations...best original screenplay, best art direction and best costumes. It is doubtful many academy members saw this film. If they had, surely it would have received more nominations.