"The Boy Friend"
Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam CT
How appropriate that Julie Andrews is now directing “The Boy Friend” at Goodspeed! “The Boy Friend” actually launched Andrews’ American career when this British musical made its Broadway debut in 1954, sending her on the way to stardom.
And now Andrews—and the show—have come full circle. The actress-turned-director has returned to her origins. It’s the kind of turn of events that theater people love to dwell upon, milking it for sentimentality.
But, apart from the nostalgia value, Julie Andrews proves herself to be a fine director, transmuting this little show into a flawless production. Never mind that “The Boy Friend” offers a simple, predictable tale, adorned with so-so tunes. While supposedly a spoof of the 1920s musical comedies, it is hardly biting satire. But the production, under Andrews’ careful guidance, takes on a special life.
What is the material with which Andrews works? What is “The Boy Friend” about? Set at a girls’ finishing school on the Riviera, school is an excuse for fun and games. The girls and their boy friends romp through the days. Only Polly, the heiress, is without a boy friend, because her father fears fortune-hunters. But, predictably, all ends well, and true love wins out. It is a good-hearted, light-hearted little piece, which, in Andrews’ hands, becomes summer entertainment of the first order.
Of course Andrews has excellent design support. Tony Walton’s candy box of a set—all pink and white—lets us know we are in a Never-never-land. It is Nice on the Riviera, not the Nice of reality but of some one’s dreams. And the inspired costumes of Walton and Rachel Navarro—clinging dresses in vari-colored pastels--turn the chorus girls into delicious bon-bons, good enough to eat. And the soft lighting of Richard Pilbrow and Dawn Chiang completes the mood.
Andrews has a firm hand on the helm, with pacing just right and and every character in sync. Overall, Andrews is blessed with a fine cast—triple threats every one of them, who can sing, dance, and act as needed. Choreographer John de Luca’s spirited dance numbers give them all a chance to show off—individually and in ensemble. In particular, Rick Faugno and Andrea Chamberlain are marvelous to watch, as they kick up a storm in their Charleston number. Others in the cast worthy of note: Jessica Grove and Sean Palmer as the endearing young lovers, Nancy Hess and Paul Carlin as their older counterparts, Drew Eshelman, Darcy Pulliam and Kirsten Wyatt as the comic element.
In all, a show that truly fills the bill for first-class escapist entertainment.
-- Irene Backalenick
Aug. 6, 2005