Review – The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory

Wednesday 27 November 2019

If you’re looking for a joyously silly, consciously dated piece of fluff of a musical with instantly hummable tunes with a plot flimsier than an election promise then this might just be the show you’ve been looking for.

The Boy Friend is about as far from Dear Evan Hansen as you can possibly get (chorus boys’ DEH striped T shirts aside).

Sandy Wilson produced the music, lyrics and book for this 1953 show, a pastiche of 1920’s musicals apparently, although as the show is in its seventh decade now it’s easy to miss that it was a spoof. It is so gloriously un-PC that even the colour blind casting of Amara Okereke as Polly Browne is sometimes turned on its head by a script that even seems to send that up.

Phil kept with the theme and attended with his own boyfriend. Who, as it happens was a neighbour of Sandy Wilson and would share adjacent balcony chats. Very Private Lives. Neither of us had ever seen the show on stage, only the 1971 Ken Russell film. Apparently it was nearly made into a film with Debbie Reynolds and Carol Channing. Imagine! It did, however, make a star of Julie Andrews and because MGM outbid Ross Hunter for the film rights he went on to make Throroughly Modern Millie. We have much to thank Mr Wilson for.

We are in Madame Dubonnet(Janie Dee)’s finishing school in the south of France, the young gals are prone to bursting into song and dancing with prospective but banned boyfriends. Polly meets Tony (Dylan Mason) who might be just a lowly delivery boy, they fall in love and in a blast of modernity sing of their plans to spend the rest of their lives together within minutes of meeting (“I Could Be Happy With You”). But then this is the sort of show where you can hide behind a palm leaf and not be observed, or, if you are Lady Brockhurst (Issy Van Randwyck), can hold a fan in front of you face and sing “It’s Never Too Late To Fall In Love” with your husband Lord Brockhurst (Adrian Edmondson) and still not be recognised. Gloriously daft.

Matthew White’s production is generously cast although some of the “names” are underused. It’s very pretty to look at (design Paul Farnsworth), with oodles of peppy charlestoning (choreography Bill Deamer) and very decent syrups from wig maestro Richard Mawbey. It’s packed with tunes, the occasional smart lyric and a particularly strong chorus. Okereke sings splendidly and makes a delightful Polly.

We were at an early preview so we will overlook some delicious glitches; the Act 1 rug that sought to trip up the cast, the chorus boy who struggled to stand on one leg and the flowers that refused to stay in a vase and which were then adroitly rearranged by Ms Dee. We were less forgiving of the two intervals which interrupted the show just as it got in its stride. Hopefully they’ll find way to integrate the minor set changes into the action by the press night and drop one of them.

It might all be more irrelevant that a royal spare to the throne. But it there’s a message behind all the frivolity it’s that being rich isn’t more important than love. Until it is.

We wore silly grins throughout.

Anyhoo here’s the trailer for the film which bears little resemblance to the stage version.



6 Responses to “Review – The Boy Friend, Menier Chocolate Factory”

  1. johnnyfoxlondon Says:

    No Una Stubbs? How disappointing. 😀

  2. RoadshowKnowAll Says:

    Great review, as always. Just one minor and very pedantic correction – Thoroughly Modern Millie was a Ross Hunter production for Universal, not MGM.

    • Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

      Yes quite right. MGM outbid him for the film rights that’s why he decided to make TMM. I will duly correct. (according to the bible of Wikipedia) Ta,

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