In a few weeks’ time we will be in a new decade, the 2020s. If it’s anything like the 1920s, it should be a blast! The Boy Friend gives a little glimpse into what life back then was like.. for young, pretty socialites at a finishing school on the French Riviera that is!
If you fit this description then the musical really does create a perfect period atmosphere transporting you back a century. The set is simple, with a few chairs and tables on a patio framed by a delicate, lace-like frame. As this is the 20s, a white grand piano is the centerpiece of the scenes.
Polly Browne (Amara Okereke), whose love story with secret Oxford dropout Tony (Dylan Mason) is the main plot of the show, has a beautiful voice which sounds like it comes straight from an old classic. At times she sounds just like the young lady who had her Broadway debut playing this exact part in 1954 - you may have heard of her: Julie Andrews.
Maisie (Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson), Dulcie (Annie Southall) and Fay (Emily Langham) play Polly’s three school friends. For all intents and purposes they are one single character, who share a single brain by the sounds of things. Wearing simple 20s dresses that look perfect for a tea party, they moved as one in a dramatic and giggly way. At times it was like watching an old cartoon with piercingly prim and proper accents.
The frightfully funny and fearlessly french Hortense (Tiffany Graves) stole the show for me. She plays the maid at the finishing school but is much more of a cool-aunt figure for the english roses studying there.As everyone from the young socialites to the older elites seemed to be caught up in silly little love stories, Hortense, like the audience, saw the absurdness in these rich people problems. Her comedic timing was impeccable and her radiant stage-presence meant you were always drawn to her even when the stage got busy.
Although the show has some moments of hilarity, drama and joy, the audience is left a bit confused at what exactly is being presented. As the dramatic storylines get resolved in the third act, it is unclear if the audience was meant to take them seriously all along or if the funny situational comedy was the substance of the show. The first half introduced a fun 20s setting and the second half introduced the comic characters. However, the third act seemed to pale in comparison as the big ball that everyone had been building towards was executed in a lacklustre way. The costumes, which up to this point were immaculate, were a bit disappointing here. They looked cheap: a sort of butterfly polyester dress and a rushed Aladdin costume needed huge improvement. The show had done such a good job keeping true to its 20s roots but this is one place where it missed the mark.
Despite the problems in the third part, the show is still a real blast and will have you (attempting) the Charleston all the way home. Although the choreography is at times quite complex, whether they’re dancing a waltz, tap, or even a tango, the performers seemed to be having lots of fun and it is infectious. If you want an intimate musical which will whisk you away to the sunny seaside on a cold London night, this is definitely for you!