Tea Party-type critiques of government show up in the oddest places-including Gilbert & Sullivan comic operettas. They were hugely popular in the late 19th century, and two presented recently by the excellent New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players are just as relevant now. A little known one, Utopia, Limited, pummels political correctness, press arrogance, governmental bailouts, and utopian thinking generally. A well-known one, The Mikado-you may have seen its "Three Little Maids" song in Chariots of Fire-uses a Japanese setting to satirize officials who change regulations regularly.
The New York G&S Players are touring in 11 states from this month through June. A quick internet check showed a Minneapolis group staging The Pirates of Penzance in March and April and a Chicago group putting on The Sorcerer next month. Other G&S societies are in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and probably other states as well. College groups include those at Boston University, Brown, Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, the University of Michigan, and Yale.
The longevity of these operettas is striking. The Mikado has long been a favorite on both sides of the Atlantic: Groucho Marx starred in it in 1960, and Dinah Shore, Joan Sutherland, and Ella Fitzgerald were the three little maids on Shore's television show in 1963. The music is still lively and the bureaucracy being satirized just as deadly: Because we have more of it now and less in the way of family entertainment, Gilbert & Sullivan might become even more popular.