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Topsy-Turvy (1999)

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Set in the 1880s, the story of how, during a creative dry spell, the partnership of the legendary musical/theatrical writers Gilbert and Sullivan almost dissolves, before they turn it all around and write the Mikado.

Director:

Mike Leigh

Writer:

Mike Leigh
Won 2 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 28 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Allan Corduner ... Arthur Sullivan
Dexter Fletcher ... Louis
Sukie Smith Sukie Smith ... Clothilde
Roger Heathcott Roger Heathcott ... Stage Doorkeeper
Wendy Nottingham Wendy Nottingham ... Helen Lenoir
Stefan Bednarczyk Stefan Bednarczyk ... Frank Cellier
Geoffrey Hutchings Geoffrey Hutchings ... Armourer
Timothy Spall ... Richard Temple
Francis Lee ... Butt
William Neenan ... Cook
Adam Searle Adam Searle ... Shrimp
Martin Savage Martin Savage ... George Grossmith
Jim Broadbent ... William Schwenck Gilbert
Lesley Manville ... Lucy Gilbert (Kitty)
Kate Doherty ... Mrs. Judd
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Storyline

After their production "Princess Ida" meets with less-than-stunning reviews, the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan is strained to breaking. Their friends and associates attempt to get the two to work together again, which opens the way to "The Mikado," one of the duo's greatest successes. Written by Steve Fenwick <scf@w0x0f.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The egos. The battles. The words. The music. The women. The scandals. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of risque nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | French | German | Italian | Japanese

Release Date:

11 February 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mike Leigh Untitled See more »

Filming Locations:

Hertfordshire, England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$32,718, 19 December 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,201,757, 21 May 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the actual opening-night performance of "The Mikado", the Act 2 finale began with "The Threatened Cloud Has Passed Away". This version was felt to be too short, so "For He's Gone and Married Yum-Yum" was later added, as seen in the film and modern performances. See more »

Goofs

Length of Sullivan's cigarette and ash during their lengthy discussion See more »

Quotes

Lucy Gilbert (Kitty): I should rather like to be an actor, upon the stage.
Gilbert: An actor?
Lucy Gilbert (Kitty): Yes. Wouldn't it be wondrous if perfectly commonplace people gave each other a round of applause at the end of the day?
[she claps enthusiastically]
Lucy Gilbert (Kitty): Well done, Kitty! Well done!
See more »

Connections

Featured in WatchMojoUK: Top 10 British Music Biopics (2019) See more »

Soundtracks

The Lost Chord
(1877)
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by Adelaide Anne Procter
Performed by Allan Corduner, Matthew Mills and Eleanor David
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

wonderful entertainment
8 July 2000 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

Mike Leigh's gloriously entertaining film, `Topsy-Turvy,' offers a wise and witty slice of musical theater history. Set in 1880's London, the movie chronicles the extraordinary personal and professional relationship between two giants of the 19th Century entertainment world, lyricist `Willie' Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. The screenplay, wisely, chooses to pick up the tale not at the very beginning of their collaborative career - tracing its rise and fall as many biopics would do - but rather at the point where the team has already garnered international fame and success but seems of late to be experiencing a bit of creative stagnation. Sullivan, tiring of the seemingly trivial nature of the librettos they've been producing, wants to break away and embark on his own to produce a work of more `weighty' merit. Gilbert, on the other hand, delights in his success and, although bothered by comments in the press that his work has begun to repeat itself, initially resists Sullivan's plea that they abandon their hitherto winning formula.

Thus, the conflict between the two men of creative genius plays itself out against the fascinating backdrop of a deliciously recreated vision of the theatrical world of a hundred-odd years ago. Just as important to the film as the two main characters is the rich assortment of secondary players - theater proprietors, company actors, wives, lovers and parents - who swirl around the principals and provide a colorful tapestry to match the exquisite art direction and costuming that adorn the film. In addition, Leigh incorporates clever references to some of the technological marvels just making their appearance at the time: telephones, reservoir pens and luxury hotels with baths for every room!

Leigh's pacing is admirably unhurried and relaxed. So rich is the detail of his vision that fully thirty-five minutes elapse before the two lead characters even have their first scene together. In addition, the inspiration for `The Mikado' - ostensibly the centerpiece of the film's plot - doesn't strike Gilbert until well into the second hour. Yet, the film never falters in interest, least of all when Leigh devotes long stretches of footage to showing us the actors rehearsing their parts or having us eavesdrop on some behind-the-scenes salary negotiations or discussions of artistic differences. This is the real triumph of the film: Leigh opens up a world to us by letting us see the fascinating nuts-and-bolts aspects of the creative process to which we, as members of a theatre audience, are rarely privy. He also is not afraid to linger long over many a beautiful reproduction of the musical pieces themselves. Leigh can count his film a success in that it makes us want to rush out and catch a performance of one of these operettas ourselves.

The film would not be the splendid success it is were it not for the dazzling performances of its amazingly large cast. Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner are perfection as the good-natured but often antagonistic partners, never playing the humor too broadly or violating the spirit of elite British gentility even in their most conflict-laden moments.

Indeed, it is this very quality of quiet subtlety that permeates every aspect of `Topsy-Turvy' and that makes it the wholly satisfying and entertaining film it is.


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