1961 The Boy Friend

Atmosphere well Re-created

"The Boy Friend." Witham Operatic Society, Public Hall, Witham.

This "musical" takes us back to the early 'twenties, when the Charleston held sway and stage girls still postured and simpered. It opens with a scene in a girls' school in la belle France, whose principal, bearing the enticing name of Madame Dubonnet, hides an ever-young heart under her middle-age clothes.
In the father of one of her pupils, Percival Brown, who drops in for a quick visit, she recognises an old boyfriend, whom she reminds that she used to be his Kiki. His daughter Polly Brown is also yearning for love, but only with imaginary swains, until she falls, like a bolt from the blue, for a messenger boy who brings her a parcel.

The show opens very well with a bevy of girls, pupils of Madame D., who, with the servant Hortense, by costume, looks, posturing and dancing immediately succeed in creating the 1920 atmosphere, which they manage to maintain throughout.
Maisie (Helen Masding) of the flashing eyes is a boon for the boys and dances an enticing Charleston very nicely with her swain Bobby van Husen (Timothy Sheppard). June Gisbv in the role of Pretty Polly keeps well in style and has some affecting scenes and duets with her true boy friend, Derek Winslow, who looks the part and speaks, dances and sings equally well.


Anne Booth plays the role of Madame Dubonnet, in her several aspects quite convincingly, sings nicely and proves a real sport. Harold Masding as Percival Brown proves an excellent partner for her and manfully survives the shock of her bathing costume, which, like those of the girls, have to be teen to be believed.

Kathleen Richards as the maid, Hortense shows quite uncommon talent as comedienne and her eccentric dance with the boys was a great success. David Walker and Grace Rose in the role of Lord and Lady Brockhurst also sustained the comedy element very well indeed. Diane Lawson. Judy Horrell and Janet Blake-Lobb formed the rest or the pupils, and Joe Neal, Leonard Simmons and Jack Wilsher were some of the boy friends playing opposite them.
The production, by Gilbert Sutcliffe, proceeded at a good pace and it was quite apparent that special trouble has been taken by Iris Muirhead to give a true picture of the Charleston, a difficult job very well done. John O'Halloran and Paula Kahn form a pair of attractive speciality dancers.
Musical direction is in the hands of Cecil Barker, who could perhaps on occasion get his capable band to play a little softer to give the Singers a chance.

This attractive production will continue the rest of the week.



‘The Boy Friend’ at Witham

This musical is fun, and I fell in love with Dulcie because she enjoys herself so much that we all enjoy ourselves with her.
I did not see this show in London, but I understand it to be a burlesque of musical comedy. At Witham it is played at its face value, and perhaps for this reason the third act falls a bit flat, though indeed it may have flattened in the writing, or due to first-night nerves.
I was much impressed by the clarity of the words, both sung and spoken; producer (Gilbert Sutcliffe) is determined that we shall be able to follow the story and we can. Witham have some good singers, but one or two of the men must work at their acting as well; one duet lost its punch because the young lover appeared quite uninterested in his lady.


And talking of punch, not quite enough of it with the exception of Dulcie (Diane Lawson) who has it to spare. But I am sure drive will come when first-night nerves are conquered.
Madame Dubonnet (Anne Booth) gives a really sound, and unselfconscious performance: Hortense (Kathleen Richards) is confident and gay, and so is naughty little Maisie (Helen Masding).
Polly and Tony play and sing well together (June Gisby and Derek Winslow). Lord Brockhurst (David Walker) does some energetic clowning and the “Boopadoop” song with Dulcie is one of the highlights of the evening.

I liked goofy Nancy (Janet Blake-Lobb) who made herself part of the play. Bobby (Timothy Sheppard), I found a little stiff, though not in his dancing both energetic and nicely dated and both Percy (Harold Masding) and Lady Brockhurst (Grace Rose), in difficult parts, were a little withdrawn.
The dances arranged by Iris Muirhead, were well done and well thought out. And the special Tango was technically excellent (John O'Halloran and Paula Kahn).
I was much impressed by the orchestra, led by Cecil Barker.
The clothes were very pretty, very funny and the colours were fine, I particularly liked the bathing dresses and wished the boys could have worn them too, if the blue and white striped one was a fair sample!

Could not this talented company make its own scenery? The backcloth in the first act is ineffably dreary. East coast on a nasty day instead of Nice on a nice one.
The final chorus is "I Could Be Happy With You" and I am sure you will be happy with "The Boy Friend." Go and see.