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Utopia, Limited

or, The Flowers of Progress Show Logo

Book by W. S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan

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The play opens on the South-sea Island of Utopia, where the natives spend their days in blissful joy and relaxation. All is not as it seems in this land of lazy languor, however; the citizens of Utopia possess a passionate admiration for all things English, and do their best to follow English customs, institutions, and fashions. In fact, the King's two youngest daughters have been carefully taught by an authentic English governess, and the King's eldest daughter, Zara, has gone so far as to leave Utopia to be educated at Girton in Great Britain. (Through an error, the King's only son was apprenticed to a pirate, but that is another story). During Zara's absence, Utopia has become an all but despotic government; her father, King Paramount has fallen under the control of Scaphio and Phantis, his two wise men, and Tarara, the Public Exploder. Together they threaten to blow his majesty up with dynamite should he dare go against their wishes.

We join the story on the day of Zara's return after five years away from home. She brings with her the Flowers of Progress — six men who represent the reasons England is held in such high esteem. These Flowers proceed to reform Utopia based on their own concept of British principles. One of these reforms, suggested by the company promoter, Mr. Goldbury, is to incorporate Utopia's monarchy into a company limited. This company is to be controlled by an association of the King and the Flowers. This reform frees the King from the control of his wise men, because he is no longer a man, but a corporation.

This infuriates Scaphio and Phantis who devise a plot to regain control. With Tarara, they convince the natives that the new British happiness is actually misery, and that without war, sickness, poverty, bankruptcy, and crime, Utopia has come to a standstill, and that all the lawyers and doctors will wither and die if the reforms are not undone.

Zara saves the reforms — and her father — by realizing that the Flowers had omitted government by party. This is instituted at once, thus ensuring "sickness in plenty, endless lawsuits, crowded jails, interminable confusion in the Army and Navy, and, in short, general and unexampled prosperity!" Scaphio, Phantis & Tarara are taken away, Utopia is successfully anglicized, and the natives are no longer restless.

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