Rich party girls, antifeminist banter, fake love and desperation for a boyfriend – no, this isn’t a new episode of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” It’s the basis of “The Boy Friend,” in which these factors add up to a fun spoof of typical 1920’s musical comedies.
It can be summed up in one of the opening lyrics: “We plead to have, we need to have, in fact our poor hearts bleed to have that certain thing called the boy friend.” Nearly the entire cast finds love along the French Riviera while dreaming, scheming and dancing the Charleston.
The non-serious curtain speech by Ariel Harris and Sophie Wiener prepared us for the humor, sarcasm and fun of the show. A high-energy musical like this is impossible to pull off without a stellar ensemble; even the best of leads cannot save a bored background cast. Each member of this production clearly put in hours of choreography training, accent practice and caffeine consumption. These Europeans filled the stage with their presence and carried the show together.
Several large dance numbers highlighted impressive period choreography, and British and French accents were done fairly well. As a French speaker, I was impressed with those of junior Brigid Meier as Hortense and senior Kristen Heritage as Madame Dubonnet. (They prepared by watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts and studying Lumière of “Beauty and the Beast” and French episodes of “Veggie Tales.”)
A conceptual pattern bore a striking resemblance to this year’s recipient of the Academy Award for animated feature, Disney’s “Frozen.”
Some of it was inherent in the writing: falling in love with someone you’ve just met that day and proposing to someone you hardly know, struggling to overcome sexist views. Some of it was production-specific, from over-the-top costuming to a sweet, clear-voiced lead. What really pushed the metaphor over the edge was the final costume of Polly Browne (played by Anna Farr). Dressed as Pierrette for the ballroom scene, she wore a white dress with three gigantic black buttons in a straight line up her torso. Essentially, she was Olaf the Snowman.
“Frozen” or not, the show thawed the audience’s hearts. Senior Mackie Raymond dazzled us as Maisie. As she charmed boys onstage with teasing, feminine wiles and questionable logic, she charmed the audience with a strong voice, constant smile and snarky humor. She had to power past frustratingly unreliable microphones multiple times but did so successfully. Her chemistry with senior Brandon Koch as Bobby van Husen had us wishing she would just Charleston with him already!
Myers Park’s production was made more impressive by the surprising element of youth or novelty. Farr is just a freshman; stage manager Kayla Reische is a sophomore; director Amanda Roberts is a newcomer to the school this year. Their bond was remarkable for collaborators who met recently.
After this performance, it’s clear that rich girls desperate for boys to make them complete can actually make for a fantastic show! The only things “Jersey Shore” lacks to make magic happen are peppy singing and choreographed dance numbers. Can somebody get a note to the producers?