Ethington Season Goes Out Dancing With Rousing ‘Boy Friend’
Review by Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Jerry Bauer
The plot of the musical “The Boy Friend” is about as flimsy as a politician’s promise.
Lovesick girls at a finishing school meet earnest, clean-cut boys. They sing and dance. Stuffy widower becomes reacquainted with prim-and-proper headmistress of the school. They sing and dance. Everyone goes to the beach and then to a costume ball, where they … you got it.
Thirteen song-and-dance numbers are packed into “The Boy Friend,” and that’s not a complaint. The tunes “I Could Be Happy With You” and “The Riviera” are the kind that run laps in your head, and the 1953 musical — set in the ’20s on the French Riviera — makes for an exhilarating conclusion to a breakthrough season for GCU’s Ethington Theatre.
This isn’t “Dracula,” which became a cult hit last October with its spooky staging and dark themes. Nor is it “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” given some clever contemporary wrinkles that included characters text-messaging onstage.
“The Boy Friend” is pure confection, although Friday’s opening night of the six-show run demonstrated that it’s hard work being this sweet.
The eye-popping choreography of consultant Lynette Kidman Nunez is of Broadway quality, made all the more incredible by the fact that most of the 25 cast members aren’t experienced dancers. Although Nunez has done this show previously, at Arizona State University, it’s hard to imagine that it was any better than this.
The set designed by Assistant Dean Bill Symington glitters and sparkles like nothing we’ve seen before at Ethington, and Nola Yergen’s colorful period costumes are amazingly authentic (and fitted, too). Allison Bauer has the hairstyles just right, and there’s even a four-piece band — piano, sax, trumpet and drums — pumping out the songs cabaret-style behind the set, directed by John Luke Osorio.
Although the players include some of best theatre talent in GCU’s College of Fine Arts and Production, such as Adam Benavides, Jake Swanson and Bina Neuwirth, three relative newcomers to the stage steal the show.
As the characters Maisie and Polly, one who has a gaggle of interested guys and the other who has just one, twins Claire and Joy Flatz — only freshmen — nail their roles. They’re so good that “The Boy Friend” seems to have been written for them. And senior Christina Cullers, whose stunning soprano is perhaps the best voice in GCU’s Music Department, is superb as the headmistress, Madame Dubonnet. Cullers doesn’t sing much in the role, but when she does, it’s a treat.
Dance fans will enjoy Claire Flatz and a light-footed Nick Fernandez in their duet “Won’t You Charleston With Me?” and Joy Flatz’s crisp tap work on “I Could Be Happy With You” opposite Benavides. The big company number, “The Riviera,” is as good as it gets — and worth seeing the show for. It makes you want to jump up onstage and join the fun.
Dean Claude Pensis brings a special flair to productions like this, adding clever touches to even the smaller roles. (Watch Alyssa Liu as one of the girls and Zane Wiles as Lord Brockhurst, a henpecked Briton.) It’s the mark of a director who cares about every detail.
“The Boy Friend” won’t make you think too much. But at the end of the school year, is that such a bad thing?
Not at all, and we’re confident that you won’t mind in the least.
For tickets to the final weekend of “The Boy Friend,” call the Ethington box office at 639.8880. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or email@example.com.