Menier Chocolate Factory – until 7 March 2020
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Just walking into the theatre and seeing Paul Anderson’s vibrantly coloured set chases away the winter blues and transports you to 1920s Riviera in this sparkling production.
The refreshingly simple plot of Sandy Wilson’s 1953 musical is corny but so much fun. The girls at Mme Dubonnet’s School for Young Ladies are excited about attending the carnival ball with their French beaus, but Polly Browne, sick of young men only wanting her for her fortune, has invented a boy friend from Paris. Falling instantly for the messenger boy who delivers her costume, Polly tells him that she is a secretary, hoping that he loves her for herself and not her father’s money. Holidaying British aristocrats and Polly’s father’s romantic past with Mme Dubonnet throw a few obstacles in the path of true love, but the inevitable happy ending is sweet and satisfying.
Matthew White wisely keeps the tweeness without any modern irony or self-awareness, instead just letting the camp antics shine through with a gleeful joy. The girls speaking and acting in unison as a high-pitched Greek chorus never gets old, and the cast are tremendous. Janie Dee and Tiffany Graves as Mme Dubonnet and her maid Hortense are fantastic fun with their ‘Allo ‘Allo accents and barnstorming vocal performances, and Amara Okereke and Dylan Mason are delightful as the two earnest young lovers. Ade Edmondson and Issy Van Randwyck steal every scene as lecherous Lord Brockhurst and his harridan wife, making you forgive and forget the tricky morals of their big number as you laugh along with their ridiculous antics.
Wilson’s music and lyrics are unashamedly jolly, even the slower, heartfelt songs make you smile, and Bill Deamer’s energetic choreography is pitch perfect. The cast use the small stage brilliantly, with Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson, Jack Butterworth, Tom Bales, Peter Nash and Ryan Carter bringing the house down with their stunning Charleston.
The perfect pick-me-up on dark December nights, The Boy Friend is a frivolous fluffy fun show that will warm your heart.