The Theatreguide.London Review
Menier Chocolate Factory Winter 2019-2020
A bubbly champagne cocktail
of a show, this cheery musical wants nothing from you but a smile, and
only the most determined curmudgeon could resist its kittenish charm.
Written – book, music and
lyrics – by Sandy Wilson in the 1950s, the era of serious dramatic
musicals (South Pacific, etc), The Boy Friend is a pastiche salute to the
thinner just-a-lot-of-fun shows of the 1920s.
The setting is a school for
rich Englishmen's daughters in the south of France ('We're being
finished/And our families' wealth/Will be diminished/But at least we all
have perfect health').
The plot is simple – girl
meets boy and, well, that's about it. Other girls meet other boys, an
older generation catches some of the romantic spirit, and nothing bad
happens to anybody except for a few moments when someone is late for a
If the whole thing were any
lighter of weight the dancers' tap shoes wouldn't hit the ground, but it
is precisely the guarantee that no worry or even thought need cross the
audience's mind that is the show's attraction.
Even the titles of Wilson's
songs are reassuring – Won't You Charleston With Me?, It's Nicer In Nice,
It's Never Too Late To Fall In Love – and their simple melodies are
The present production, led
by director Matthew White, keeps everything moving perkily so that even
the lamest period jokes scamper by.
As sometimes happens in
rom-coms, the central couple are actually fairly bland, and despite
singing beautifully and capturing the spirit of innocent joy, Amara
Okereke and Dylan Mason are in constant danger of fading in the presence
of more colourful characters and energetic performances.
Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson as
Maisie is the centrepiece of choreographer Bill Deamer's high-energy dance
numbers, ranging from that Charleston through some precision tapping to a
stageful of of people doing Wilson's salute to the fad dances of the
1920s, The Riviera.
Janie Dee is delectable as the motherly-but-never-matronly schoolmistress, Adrian Edmondson and Issy Van Randwyck amusing as a bickering old couple, and Tiffany Graves shamelessly scene-stealing as an archly knowing maid.
Indeed, as too rarely
happens, even the chorus is made up of individualised personalities who
constantly catch your amused eye.
I suppose that those whose tolerance for good clean fun is limited might suffer from twinkle overload here. But that would be their loss. Don't let it be yours.
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