From the first number, it's clear that the cast of Gilbert & Sullivan The Musical are talented. The opening song is very much an homage to the style of original Gilbert & Sullivan’s numbers, and each of the actors artfully manage their quick verses and vying harmonies. The lone keyboardist offers excellent accompaniment and the farcical dance moves performed throughout the songs are hilarious. With every aspect of the show executed so well, about the only thing missing from this musical, really, is a plot.
The show follows the partnership of possibly the most famous musical comedy team of all time. The musical opens with the staging of their first musical, and then proceeds chronologically through each Gilbert and Sullivan show, ending when the two decide they can no longer work together. To signal each new musical, an advertising bulletin appears on an easel at the back of the stage, and we are treated to a song about the new collaboration.
These songs provide an interesting glimpse into the partnership that existed between W.S. Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan and Richard D’Oyly Carte. We learn that Sullivan wished to be a famous composer,and had real trouble working with comedic and frivolous Gilbert. We learn too, about Gilbert's writing process and his life before operettas. Perhaps most tantalizing, however, are the glimpses we get into the personality of Richard D’Oyly Carte, the man who brought Gilbert and Sullivan together and who built the Savoy theater to host their comic operas. According to the songs, D’Oyly Carte had once been in the music business himself and wished Gilbert and Sullivan and D’Oyly Carte would become household names (well... two out of three isn’t bad?).
These songs offer tantalizing glimpses of information, but nothing that really resolves itself firmly into a story. Even though the songs are well written, and deftly performed, this oversight is a definite deficiency in the musical. The total result is that for those who love operatic comedy and wish to know more about its most famous duo, this show will offer a lot. For those who have no interest in either of these subjects, however, there’s unlikely to be any real appeal.