Its Wikipedia entry somewhat dismissively says: “Its relatively small cast and low cost of production makes it a continuing popular choice for amateur and student groups.”
That might be true, but judging from the simply sensational production at Pavilion Dance by graduating students from Arts University Bournemouth, it’s as fresh and as challenging as the day it was born.
There was nothing of the old chestnut in Doug Cockle’s stylish show, stunningly choreographed by Clare Camble-Hutchins and accompanied with delightful panache by five members of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s new music group, Kokoro.
The show started life as a pastiche of 1920s musical romances, is set on the French riviera, and is all about young love and older love. A versatile Art Deco set (designed by Beth Doyle) and costumes by Kalina Koniecny brought the period to colourful life and the cast threw themselves into the spirit of the thing with enormous gusto and skill.
It is all too easy to “do” The Boy Friend just for the music and the look, and ignore the fact that each of these people has a back story. It was that back story that Mr Cockle, an American actor come to the UK to lead the Bournemouth course, and his company dug out during rehearsals.
This was the umpteenth production of the show I have seen, and it was also the joyful best.
There was real surprised chemistry between poor little rich girl Polly Browne (Rosanna Thornwood) and her delivery boy Tony (Christopher Mulvin).
Shaun Dodwell played the pompous Percival Browne as a rounded character, full of English reserve, awkwardly unexpressed love for his daughter and real reticence as swimming in public. Making him a sympathetic and oh-so-recognisable person also brought a new dimension to his relationship with Kiki Dubonnet – another lovely performance by Jessica Chloe Young. (seen rehearsing, right)
With one painfully notable exception, every member of the cast had mastered the requisite accent, be it French, American or the so-precise BBC English of the period (RP we call it now).
It’s only a pity that the show could not have run for the summer upstairs in the Pavilion Theatre, where it should have filled the seats night after night.
PS. Thanks to the young man next to me, who screamed, bellowed, whooped and giggled at high volume from the beginning to the end of the show, right in my ear.
Why oh why do people think they must express their appreciation in a way that distracts not just the cast, but gives the rest of the audience thumping headaches. Perhaps theatre shows should be preceded by “calmers down” in the same way as “reality” television audiences are “warmed up” before the filming starts.