The A-level drama students of St Marylebone CE School in London give this frothy oldie a new lease of life. In a surprisingly intelligent production, their tongues are firmly in their cheeks, and every bygone dance-move laced with irony.
When people claim to hate musicals, they are generally referring to The Boy Friend and its ilk. Farcical plots loosely connect lavish musical numbers with little or no consequence. This production embraces that tradition, and although it can’t provide elaborate sets or beautiful costumes, the performers throw themselves into the highly stylized mindset with gusto.
Written in the 50s to satisfy the post-war craving for pre-war entertainment, the musical charts the rise and rise of poor little rich girl Polly Browne as she pretends to be a lowly secretary in order to get the guy. Of course, the guy turns out to be the born into riches. The moral? Money begets money and rich people are happier.
The cast is led by an arrestingly beautiful Polly with a lovely singing voice, who does well to channel Julie Andrews’ bright eyed optimism. The four Young Ladies worked excellently as an ensemble, each with clear characterisation and a jolly-hockey-sticks sense of humour. The guys were led by the titular boy friend Tony, whose vacant earnestness earned him a place in all our hearts. Comic turns came from the older couple Lord Brockhurst and his overbearing Indian (in this production) wife. Lord Brockhurst’s voice was period-perfect for the role as he spoke-sang his way through ‘It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love’. Occasionally non-English accents were shaky, with the French ones in particular being wildly, if amusingly, inaccurate.
The Boy Friend is harmless entertainment, if a little raunchy for its pre-watershed slot. Despite the drearily synthesized backing tracks and lacklustre costuming (Pierrot and Pierrette looked more like martial artists than sad clowns), the group inject a much-needed youthful vigour into proceedings. Taking the resources available into account, this is a darn good attempt.