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The Boy Friend
Published on Monday, 31 August 2009

Set in a finishing school in the 1920s, The Boy Friend follows Madame Dubonnet and her pupils on the day of the Carnival Ball. The version presented by Hazlenut [sic] Productions of Oxford University is a Fringe-friendly abridged version of Sandy Wilson's 1953 musical. However, since the plot's quite simple and all the songs are there save for a few verses, you'll hardly notice what's missing.

Within the first few minutes, it is evident that this is a very polished production. Time has clearly gone into making the costumes and props, the choreography is tight and the acting by the leads is strong. Even most of the English in a French accent was done well for comic effect, in that great 'Allo, 'Allo tradition.

Although the music is not too taxing to sing or play (one of the reasons for the popularity of The Boy Friend amongst amateur groups), it still has to be done. The songs were executed with aplomb, perfectly accompanied by a mini-orchestra at the back of stage.

The worry I had, though, was that despite some brilliant comic turns, the cast failed to fully get across the tongue-in-cheek nature of the musical. It may be a window into the lives of the upper class during the roaring twenties, but we're supposed to realise how frivolous and care-free the whole thing is. We're not really supposed to feel too much sympathy that our heroine can't find a boyfriend because she's too rich, and the "happy" ending of the two lead characters finding out that the other was only pretending to be working class is certainly not to be taken too seriously. In the current economic zeitgeist, the wider audience unfamiliar with the musical could easily have misunderstood this production as a celebration of elitism.

I have a sad feeling that Hazlenut Productions have come to Edinburgh with the wrong musical, at the wrong time - or at least, haven't quite managed to get across what they're trying to do. That shouldn't detract, though, from a polished and enjoyable show, with strong singing, music and acting throughout. I'm looking forward to catching up with this talented group again next year.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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