United Kingdom Sandy Wilson, The Boy Friend: Soloists and Chorus of Northwest Productions, Liverpool University, Gilbert & Sullivan Fringe Festival, Buxton, 2.8.2011 (RJW)
Claire-Charlotte Ball … Hortense
Naomi Sherliker … Maisie
Pippa Lea … Dulcie
Fay Burke … Fay
Ellie Hudson … Nancy
Natalie Hayes … Polly Browne
John Kindon … Alfronzo
Martyn Payne … Marcel
Ben Hamer … Pierre
Sophie Joachim … Isabella
Oliver Ormson … Bobby
Maria Doyle … Mme Dubonnet
Steve McCauley … Percival Browne
David Cope … Tony
Michael Bailey … Lord Brocklehurst
Rebecca Cassidy … Lady Brocklehurst
Choreography by Rachel Saul
Directed by David Goulden
This is one of the best Festival Fringe events I have ever seen. The Buxton G&S Festival has been actively promoting Youth events over the last few years with a portion of the festival devoted to them. The fact that The Boy Friend is not G&S does not worry those amongst us that enjoy a diversion from the norm. How nice it is therefore to see the sparkle of youthful stage routines, dancing and fresh faced singers in Buxton at events like this.
Northwest Productions comes from Liverpool and is the brain-child of David Goulden, a keyboard musician and lecturer. The fine, colourful and well co-ordinated costumes made up for the basic black curtained set. The audience were subjected to a slick, well-rehearsed performance that is a credit to all those who appeared on-stage. With such a good lighting rig in this new theatre it is a pity that more was not made of colour, especially in what should have been a sun-drenched beach scene at the beginning of the second act, but with little time to prepare such an event perhaps this would have been somewhat unrealistic.
From the start, Hortense’s telephone call drew interest with her presence and her good French and convincing broken ‘accent Anglais’. Maria Doyle as Mme Dubonnet acted with good authority in her role of a French headmistress as a believable flirt. Both Polly (Natalie Hayes) and Maise (Naomi Sherliker) were good in holding the audience’s attention with their excellent singing. In fact the singing of the whole company was a lot higher than is normally heard on the amateur stage. Tony (David Cope) was sincere as the lead boy, with outstanding diction and delivery. Also of note, Lord Brocklehurst gave a convincing performance of an amusing elderly womanizer who was unaware of his sell-by date.
The costumes, moves and poses were spot-on for this 1920s period pastiche of the classic musical. The quality of costumes, their variety and co-ordination of a ‘stripes’ theme made up for the lack of scenery. Rachel Saul’s choreography not only provided excellent dancing by the troupe from the opening ensemble onwards, but also in the sensitive moves during the duet numbers. Her routines are a match for any West End musical.
The musical trio set a lively pace and made this frothy music live. Good luck to them for their future engagements.
Raymond J Walker