What a fun evening as my sister Linda and I saw a performance of The Boy Friend at Joplin Little Theater. Seeing the musical was a first for me, and for Linda, it was not only her first time to see the musical, but her first time to be in the Joplin Little Theater. We had great seats near the front and settled in to enjoy an outstanding production.
The Boy Friend is a musical comedy, written in three acts, by Sandy Wilson. This British musical is a spoof, intended to playfully make fun of the musicals presented in the 1920’s. Written in the early 1950’s, the London production, which began in 1954, ran for 2078 performances. The show opened on Broadway in September of the same year and ran for 485 performances, and marked the Broadway debut of Julie Andrews in the role of Polly Browne.
The Joplin production was directed by Carolyn McGowan with choreography by Angela Lowe. Musical director was Clint Newby and Vocal Director, Becky Seidl. The 2014-2015 season at Joplin Little Theater celebrates the theater’s 75th anniversary. In 1960 The Boy Friend was the first Broadway musical performed at JLT. The 2014 version boasts a very talented group of young performers in the title roles and some returning favorites playing the more mature roles.
The musical is set in the Villa Caprice where we meet a lively bunch of young women at Mme Dubonnet’s School for Young Ladies. The central character, Polly Browne (Lindsey Daniels), is a young heiress who, sadly, is the only girl there without a boyfriend. So she makes one up. There is a carnival ball that evening and Polly is in a predicament, until she meets the handsome young messenger, Tony (Forrest Bunter), who is delivering her costume for the evening. The two hit it off and make arrangements to meet later in the day. Concerned that Tony will want her for her wealth, Polly pretends to be a secretary at the school.
There is love all over the villa! Polly’s widowed father Percy (Ricardo Field) arrives, and Mme Dubonnet (Becky Seidl) recognizes her long ago lover. Polly’s friends, the girls, all have beaus who hang on their every word and garner promises for dances at the upcoming ball. Lord and Lady Brockhurst, (Matt Myers and Kelly Purser) are a wealthy English couple visiting the villa and lamenting the loss of their son, who has disappeared. Or at least, Lady Brockhurst is. Lord Brockhurst has an eye for the lovely ladies, and an ever present martini in his hand.
By the time the carnival ball arrives, we discover who Tony really is and there are glad reunions, joyful kisses and many happily paired off couples. They rejoice with a dance and a song, of course!
This was an extremely engaging, high energy production. Linda and I laughed and applauded throughout the musical. What a talented cast and the songs and dance numbers were exceptional. And yes, there were lots of moments of hamming it up, as this was, after all, a spoof, or a pastiche as the British call it. I was delighted by the performances and sitting as close as we did, I appreciated the adorable facial expressions and over the top gestures.
Matt Myers, who portrayed Lord Brockhurst, brought the most laughs with his slightly inebriated mannerisms and his roving eye and deep appreciation for the pretty girls. He warmed up the audience with introductions before the show. I loved the duet between him and the character Dulcie, played wonderfully by Chelsie Jefferies, called “It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love”.
I have so enjoyed the Joplin Little Theater productions this year. It took having a year of firsts to get me to become a regular patron. But a regular I now am. I am excited for the new season and JLT’s 75th Anniversary celebration!