The Boy Friend (sometimes spelled The Boyfriend) is a musical by Sandy Wilson, first performed in the West End in 1954 It opened London's Players Club on April 14 of that year, and reopened in an expanded version on October 13 before moving to the West End proper. This play was shown in a time soon after the devastating effects of WWII. The era that The Boy Friend is set in however, is performed in another time of world peace, its time frame occurring after WWI. Both times were chosen for a performance of comedy to celebrate and revel in the peace. The Boy Friend opened on Broadway starring a newcomer named Julie Andrews the same year on September 30 with the same cast. Julie Andrews is currently directing a revival of the show, which is on tour through 2006.
The Boy Friend is a comic pastiche of 1920s shows, with a relatively small cast.
The cast also includes walk-on roles. The original production did not have an ensemble, but one can be easily added (and frequently is).
The action takes place on the French Riviera during the 1920s, and is set in a finishing school for young ladies. In this school, Polly, Maisie, and the girls live with the maid, Hortense, and the headmistress, Mme. Dubonnet. After everyone sings about having "The Boy Friend," Bobby surprises Maisie and they dance to "Won't you Charleston With Me?"
Polly's widowed father, Percy, then arrives at the school, to discover that the headmistress is an old flame of his. They sing "Fancy Forgetting" to rekindle the spark.
The heroine, Polly Browne, though a millionaire's daughter, feels left out because she is the only one of her set who does not have a boyfriend, and she needs a partner for the fancy dress ball. However, when the errand boy, Tony, arrives to deliver her costume, they are immediately attracted to one another, and sing "I Could be Happy With You." Later, they meet at the beach and sing about "A Room in Bloomsbury." They decide to meet at the ball.
Meanwhile, the meetings between the comically flirtatious Lord Brockhurst and the rigidly mannered Percival Browne, as well as his Brockhurst's pestilent wife, bring some of the best humor to the show. When Polly goes to meet her new boyfriend on the promenade, Tony is recognized by his parents--Lord and Lady Brockhurst--who are passing; when he runs off, it is assumed that he is a thief. The act ends on a sad note.
At the ball, Bobby and the three boys propose to Maisie and the three girls, but the girls reply in unison that "we'll let you know at midnight." and everyone dances to "The Riviera." And with a catchy tune, Lord Brockhurst sings "It's Never Too Late to Fall in Love" with the flirty Dulcie. However, Polly, still depressed, talks to Mme Dubonnet, and they sing "Poor Little Pierrette," a beautifully sad song. Moments later, Tony arrives in his Pierrot costume. He asks "May I have this dance, Pierrette?" and then kisses her. Polly and Tony forgive each other and find out that Percy and Mme. Dubonnet are getting married. The clock strikes midnight, and every girl unanimously says yes to the boys' proposal! The last scene has everyone dancing as soon as Bobby, speaking the last line of the play, asks "So how about that Charleston?"
Original Broadway Cast
Alternate versions of the show
Ken Russell's 1971 film version of the show, starring Twiggy and Christopher Gable, was an alternative interpretation, weaving the basic plot into a more complicated story in which an amateur dramatic company, performing the show, are visited by a film producer on the very night that the leading lady (Glenda Jackson) has to be replaced by her shy understudy a la 42nd Street. It also contained references to numerous other Busby Berkeley and MGM movie musicals of the 1930s. The National Board of Review voted Ken Russell best director for the film, but it did not make a significant impact on the American box-office.