FRONT ROW CENTER
By Michael Warren
The Boy Friend
By Sandy Wilson
Directed by Allen McGill
This is a piece of fluff, to be enjoyed by cast and audience alike. Written in the bleak post-war fifties, The Boy Friend recalls and at the same time parodies a more carefree era when the girls were flirty and vivacious, the boys were rich and handsome, and everyone danced the Charleston. For some reason, director Allen McGill chose to “explain” why his cast was not exactly young – but Lakeside audiences are forgiving anyway, and all came ready to enjoy a light musical entertainment.
Among the revelers is a group of “young men” played by Keith Scott, Greg Clarke, Gary Keeler and Kevin O’Byrne. They are eager to dance with (and later to marry) the “young girls” played by Alexis Hoff, Judy McKinnon, Tina Jones and Gale Bildfell. This chorus group had some entertaining and tuneful numbers, naturally in roaring twenties style. The female lead is sweetly played by Helena Feldstein as “Polly Browne” who cannot find love because she is (boo-hoo) too rich. She is ably matched with Vicente Vernon as “Tony” who is pretending to be poor, but is really the son of an English lord. These two both have good strong voices, and touch our hearts with several pleasing duets.
The whole piece is set in the French Riviera, so of course there is plenty of hand-kissing and discussion of l’amour. The only way to play this stuff is with tongue firmly placed in cheek, and there are some delightful performances of this nature by Betty Robinson as “Madame Dubonnet,” the headmistress of the young girls’ finishing school, and Pat Carroll as “Percival Browne” – Polly’s millionaire father. Evidently these two had an affair many years ago, when Madame Dubonnet was known as “Kiki” – a name that can only be said with a suggestive waggle of the rear end. Jeritza McCarter plays the maid “Hortense” as only Jeritza can – her song “It’s So Much Nicer In Nice” is one of the highlights of the evening.
And Ray Himmelman leers his way around the stage with great charm as the lascivious “Lord Brockhurst” while avoiding the clutches of his prim wife “Lady Brockhurst” amusingly played by Peggy Lord Chilton.
There is a specialty number during the carnival ball – a tango which is expertly performed by Flemming Halby and Graciela Ducet. I should also mention some walk-on parts undertaken by Jerry McDonald (as a gendarme) and Don Chaloner (as a waiter). And in the opening explanatory sequence, Ken Yakiwchuk and Catherine Huff make a cameo appearance. All in all, it’s a light and entertaining evening with a predictable story, a happy ending and some enjoyable song and dance numbers. The choreography is by Alexis Hoff who is of course an excellent dancer herself, and the music is handily directed by Richard and Eleanor Stromberg who is also the pianist for the show.
Allen McGill skillfully pulled the strings of this slick performance – he managed to bring The Boy Friend happily to the Lakeside stage, in spite of the average age of the cast being somewhat higher than in the original West End production.
Congratulations to all involved, both onstage and backstage – you pulled it off and the audience went home happy! Next up is the last play of the season “Cash on Delivery” – a Michael Cooney farce directed by Bob Coull, opening on April 3rd.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com