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Raleigh Little Theatre concluded its 76th season with production number 621, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend. This show is a musical comedy making fun of British plays of the 1920s which, the character of Maisie informs us, “did happen,” but were different from the Roaring ‘20s in that “nothing in England roars.” However, the sappy love songs, energetic choreography, and forced rhymes are a roaring good time!
Director Haskell Fitz-Simmons presents a great adaptation of this musical, bringing attention to the fact that it is a parody but not to the point where it is completely overdone. There is still some realism in the acting. The costuming and lighting were happy and fun, with ridiculous, ‘20s-style costuming that was almost as exciting as the action onstage.
From the first song, “Perfect Young Ladies,” to the much-reprised “I Could Be Happy with You,” every song had multiple verses and encores, dance breaks, and cutesy, rhyming lines. The show starts with Polly inventing a boyfriend because her father will not let her date, which leads to an instant attraction to the messenger boy. They are to attend the masquerade ball together after they have a secret date at the beach to confirm their costume plans.
This classic – almost Cinderella-like – story is filled with lampooning songs, like “Safety in Numbers,” which shows Polly’s best friend Maisie wanting to date multiple boys, and “It’s Never too Late to Fall in Love,” which is full of innuendo between Polly’s friend Dulcie and Lord Brockhurst – Tony’s father, who is married! Dulcie, played by Christina Hunt, is a little airheaded and silly but has fun dancing with the more age-advanced and hilariously girl-crazy Lord Brockhurst, played by Tony Hefner.
It took a little while for the music to get up and rolling – the reduced orchestration of eight players might have had trouble adapting, with only three wind and brass players. The pitches could have been more precise, but the style was definitely present and exciting. Overall, the blend of instruments worked well, with hopping, dancing rhythms and a great reflection of the Jazz Age.
Meant to be a parody or “spoof,” The Boy Friend features classic characters, from the heroine and unknown love interest to the old flames rekindled, from the sassy French maid to the gossiping best friend. All of these characters are hilarious and artfully overdone; the clever Madam Dubonnet, played by Alison Lawrence, was a perfect match for Percival Browne, played by John Adams. Sarah Moore, who plays Polly Browne, lends a sweet, innocent voice that is well-suited for singing the endearing love songs between Polly and Tony, played by Joshua Broadhurst.
Although this show is cheesy and over-the-top, everyone is guaranteed to laugh loudly and often. There is something in it for everyone, from the delightful choreography, the sweet love story, and the funny romances between other characters – even a tango sequence with partners who are not quite in sync. The Boy Friend continues through June 24; see the sidebar for more information. The next season will open on July 13 with a Youth Series show, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. For details of that, see our calendar.