Studio 58

The Boyfriend by Sandy Wilson

Dates and Venue 31 January 24 February 2008 @ 8pm | Studio 58 Langara College

Director Dean Paul Gibson Musical Director Lloyd Nicholson Choreographer Shelley Stewart Hunt Sets Pam Johnson Costumes Sheila White Lighting John Popkin Stage Manager Susan Miyagishima

Reviewer Jane Penistan

For an evening of effortless enjoyment there’s little to beat a really good musical comedy. The simple well-known formulaic plot, the tuneful, rhythmic music, dancing, singing, and somewhat over the top acting all combine to produce relaxing entertainment.

When this is backed up by good scenery, suitable costuming, and, particularly, well rendered instrumental accompaniment, this form of theatre is a happy experience. Add a bit of nostalgia and the cup overflows.

Studio 58’s presentation of The Boyfriend, Sandy Wilson’s twenties take on flapper upper-class education in the South of France satisfies all these requirements.

Pam Johnson has put a Riviera veranda backdrop to a spare but stylish interior embellished with fragments of music scores. The Mediterranean sunshine is provided by the lighting designer to supply the warmth and brightness of the South of France, the playground of the wealthy English and French.

The low-waisted dresses, the men’s straw boaters and co-respondent shoes are all redolent of this period. It was an age of emancipation and carefree living.

As the lights go up, Lloyd Nicholson and his instrumentalists are revealed to the left of the audience, positively beaming enthusiasm and enjoyment as they burst into exuberant tuneful rhythm and the dancing and singing begin.

What fun the Charleston was and how well the students catch the style and rhythm of the day. The chorus work of this company is polished and accurate and exudes high spirits.

Some of the cast are better than others at the accents in the speech of the English and French, though valiant efforts are made. Maria Oldeen as Hortense, the maid at the school, excels here, and in her coquettishness and worldly wisdom. Her advice to the students, her flirting and her conversations are all delivered with Gallic pizzazz in an impeccable accent.

Tamera Broczkowski, as Polly, at first the only girl without a boyfriend, captures the clipped and affected 20s speech of the English upper class. She sings and dances well and has a charming naiveté. No wonder she is so popular with the girls though she attracts the eye of Tony (Corwin Ferguson). He is the rich English boy escaping his family and effecting to be one of the working class. He falls heavily for Polly who is attracted by his Englishness and his apparently parlous state.

Emilie Leclerc manages the more mature role of the headmistress, Madame Dubonnet, with aplomb. She enjoys her reminiscences and current seductiveness with sly enjoyment as she beguiles Polly’s father, Percival Browne (Joel Grinke).

Unfortunately, the men playing the more mature roles of wealthy fathers fare less well in their efforts to be staid or flirtatious. Nor have they captured the mannerisms and accents of the English of the era.

Dean Paul Gibson has infected the company and orchestra with great joie de vivre. The hard work that has gone into the coordination of this very polished production has vanished in its apparently natural, lively pace and precision. The show erupts like champagne and bubbles effervescently to the very last drop.

© 2008 Jane Penistan