The Boyfriend, a lovely 1920s pastiche, is playing at the Garrick Theatre, with a sweet and predominantly young cast. Enthusiastic performances, lots of colour and toe tapping songs keep the audience smiling throughout.
The set, designed and decorated by Robert Vincent, is beautifully finished, and gives an illusion of depth, nicely serving three locales, the drawing room of the Villa Caprice, Madame Dubonnet’s finishing school near Nice in France, the nearby beach, and the terrace of the Café Pataplon. Lighting and sound - courtesy of Don Allen, Geoff Holt, and Michael McAllan - works well.
The finishing school students are a delightful quintet. Leading lady Polly Browne, Jenna Mcgougan-Shaw has a lovely wide-eyed innocence and genuine smile. Her friend, the madcap and boy crazy Maisie, is played with a peaches and cream look but dancing eyes by Megan West. Dulcie, who briefly toys with a romance with an older man, is played with Betty Boop enigma by Rae Bacon, with Soren Healey (Fay) and Juliette Basini (Nancy) nicely completing the set.
For a show called The Boyfriend, we are a little short on boys. Kieran Smith plays his first leading role with charm and truthfulness as Tony, while Kody Fellows dances up a storm as Maisie’s foremost beau, Bobby. Mitchell Robinson stands out as Alphonse, with the final “boys” Pierre and Marcel played as breeches roles by Tamar Basini and Sophie Amsha.
On the night I viewed, Tamar was also playing the prominent role of French Maid Hortense, necessitating lightning-fast changes, and frequently switching character mid scene. Tamar shares the role with Gráinne Kennedy, and I am not sure how often she needs to pull off this double, but this impressive doubling must be exhausting.
Quite a few familiar faces and Garrick favourites in the remaining roles. Colleen Hopkins makes an elegant Madame Dubonnet, while performing double duty as choreographer. She is paired nicely with a dashing Christopher Churchhouse as her love interest and Polly’s father, Percival Browne. Alan Shaw is good fun as Lord Brocklehurst, nicely kept from acting on his wandering eye, by the restraints of Kerry Goode’s domineering Lady Brocklehurst.
Costumes, some of which are stunning, are designed by Tamar Basini, but she misses a few opportunities for cohesion or letting loose.
The Boyfriend is a classic of its genre, and really should be seen by serious musical theatre fans - and it’s simply a fun show.