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Theatre review: The Boy Friend


The Boy Friend

Menier Chocolate Factory, London ★★★★✩

IF IT is an alternative to winter, Brexit, the election and even Christmas that you are after, then there is nothing more escapist than this fizzing revival of Sandy Wilson’s musical set in the carefree 1920s.

First seen in 1953, the setting in Matthew White’s production is the landscaped garden of the Villa Caprice, a rich girls’ finishing school on the French Riviera run by Janie Dee’s flamboyant Madame Dubonnet. Boyfriends are not allowed, which is pretty much the extent of the wafer-thin plot.

‘Any girl who has reached the age of 17 needs someone to care about,’ declares Polly (Amara Okereke), before she and her fellow giggling ingénues, and some boys who appear out of nowhere, launch into the title song and set the pleasingly gratuitous teeth-and-smiles tone.

The dancing — ranging from an exhilarating Charleston by the show’s glamour couple Maisie and Bobby (Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson and Jack Butterworth, pictured), to balletic tap — is not only very good but very close. High kicks come within a whisker of the front row in this most bijou of venues.

While the 1954 Broadway version launched the career of Julie Andrews, this will give yet another boost to Adrian Edmondson’s.

Looking rather like 1950s comedy star Alastair Sim, he plays married letch Lord Brockhurst (to Issy van Randwyck’s neglected Lady Brockhurst) while eating ice cream with nano-second comic timing.

Meanwhile, into his pitch-perfect production, White injects a soupçon of irony that allows his audience to laugh with and at these shallow lives — a note reflected in the glinting eye of Dee’s Dubonnet and the saucy glare of her housekeeper Hortense (the excellent Tiffany Graves).

So it is no mean feat that Okereke’s Polly and Dylan Mason’s Tony — a couple whose biggest problem is disguising their enormous wealth and privilege from each other — actually make us care about their fate, but we do.

Rich pickings indeed.