Sandy Wilson's 1950s musical about the 1920s has a weak book and unmemorable melodies that have not traveled well since its Broadway debut in 1954. It is a tribute to director Bill Galarno and his talented cast that this production is an absolute delight. Mr. Galarno appeared in The Boy Friend in 1959, as Tony, and more recently as Tony's father, Lord Brockhurst. He obviously loves the show and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Galarno paces Wilson's tale of husband-hunting against the backdrop of the French Riviera with the energy and pizazz of a Charleston beat.
The action takes place at a swanky French finishing school run by Madame DuBonnet (Barbara Blomberg). Her young charges are busily preparing for a costume ball, where they hope their boyfriends will propose. Only the beautiful and filthy rich Polly Browne (Amy Daley) is downhearted, as she has no boyfriend to escort her. The situation soon begins to look up when Polly falls for a young messenger named Tony (Darrin Maurer) who in reality is as wealthy as Polly. Meanwhile, Polly's widowed father Percival (Victor Van Etten) arrives, and unexpectedly rekindles his romance with his old flame Madame DuBonnet. Tony's parents Lord and Lady Brockhurst (Ulises Giberga and Carmen Dunn) also arrive, and Lord Brockhurst's amorous advances to all the women cause an uproar. Polly's friend Maisie (Rosemarie Richards) and her boyfriend Bobby Van Husen (Joe Nielson) contribute to the fun with their high-spirited song and dance.
Does all this sound silly? It is, of course, but it sure is a lot of fun.
Ms. Richards and Joe Nielson were both exceptional as Maisie and Bobby. Richards was a true triple threat - a fabulous singing voice, great dancer, and comedienne - they don't make 'em like this anymore! Mr. Nielson was a virile, athletic dancer. Ms. Blomberg and Mr. Van Etten were perfectly matched as the mature but still gorgeous couple - you could almost see the sparks flying between them. Mr. Giberga was hilarious as the skirt-chasing Brockhurst.
Ms. Daley was a lovely, pure-voiced Polly, but had trouble projecting her high, light soprano in the middle range. Mr. Maurer's handsome, likable Tony was troubled with pitch problems, particularly in his soft singing. Kristin Bailey Shaw as Dulcie, Susan Boskoff as Nancy, and Susanna Breese as Fay (who in a second role as Lolita did an exquisite tango with Jerry Williams's Pepe) were a treat as Polly's girlfriends. Shaw's duet with Mr. Giberga was hysterically funny.
Julie Rowe's musical direction was top-notch. Everyone was well-prepared musically, and had great diction. Jerry Williams' staging of the Charleston and Tango numbers made the audience members wanted to get up and dance. Akiko Kosako's set was magnificent, in true Depression fairy-tale style. Richard Tatum's lights gave everyone a flattering glow. Pattie Paula's costumes were just about perfect - from the period swimsuits (Ms. Blomberg's purple swimsuit was dynamite!) to the lavish evening wear. The audience may not remember any of the songs, but they will certainly remember how great everyone looked.
Also featured were Thayer, Kevin Moss, Scott
Kerstettner, Hari Krishnaswami, Rich Fisher,
Jennifer Hirsch, and Veronica Shea.
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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern