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
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
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
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.
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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