Houston’s Oldest Opera Company Travels Back In Time, Debuts ‘A Topsy Turvy Mikado’

Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston star director modernizes a classic comic opera, a play within a play at the Hobby Center, Zilkha Hall


The play within a play, guided by international 30-year HG&S star director and performer, Alistair Donkin, takes place in 1885 during one of the final rehearsals before opening night. Based on historical records and hilarious behind the scenes happenings, it features a surprise appearance by W.S. Gilbert who strives to prepare the original actors for their roles, plus all the songs and dialogue fans know and love.

After presenting several traditional productions of the Victorian satirical opera handed down through generations, Donkin was prompted by Mike Leigh’s highly successful film, Topsy Turvy, which cataloged the artistic trials and tribulations of the relationship between the English dramatist and librettist W.S Gilbert and his partner, Sir Arthur Sullivan.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston (HG&S) presents ‘A Topsy Turvy Mikado,’ a new take on an old favorite based in Victorian England. Opera fans new and old will gain a fresh perspective of the original D’Oyly Carte production of the classic Mikado.


A Topsy Turvy Mikado debuts on July 19 and follows with five performances through July 28. Dates and times are: Friday, July 19 at 8pm, Saturday July 20 at 2:30pm & 8pm, Sunday, July 21 at 2:30pm,  Saturday, July 27 at 2:30pm & 8pm, and Sunday, July 28 at 2:30pm.


The original First Night Libretto and records were researched by Donkin to keep the historical viewpoint and storyline of Topsy Turvy authentic while incorporating his startling, behind-the-scenes discoveries.

 “Topsy Turvy has always been a description of the style of the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas many years before Mike  Leigh adopted the phrase as the title of his excellent film. My approach results in a comic opera lampooning the Victorian British attitudes towards Class distinction and Political graft against an exquisite backdrop of Japanese culture with which the whole of London had fallen in love,” said Donkin.


Donkin has been the Artistic Director and a Featured Performer of the International Champion G&S Society of Houston since 1982. He was inducted into the International Festival of Gilbert & Sullivan Hall of Fame in 2018. Since 1982, he has directed over 260 productions in 37 years including four companies and 47 productions in the United States and 22companies and 194 productions in the United Kingdom.

He is a four-time winner of the Buxton International G&S Festival Yeoman of the Guard award and a six-time winner of the NODA West Midlands Best Musical award.


Ticket information and seating can be viewed by visiting https://gilbertandsullivan.org/events. Tickets are $29-69 (ticketing fees not included). Follow the Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/329531571057408.

Photos courtesy of Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston