At last Friday night’s final dress rehearsal of “The Boy Friend,” a homage to the musical comedies of the roaring ’20s being presented by The Gingerbread Players of Saint Luke’s Church, the company seemed well prepared for the scheduled opening matinee performance the next day.
The scenery, a pastel-inspired creation set against the lovely backdrop designed by Rosemary Favia and featuring appropriate period costumes by Joanna Guinther, sets the tone for this light-hearted romp in nostalgia.
It must be mentioned that many members of the cast are, in the words of a popular song of the ’40s, either too young or too old, and in other ways not ideally suited for their particular roles, making for some rather strange on-stage pairings.
But they come together and carry on as if all is right with the world. And that’s the perfect embodiment of community theater.
Set on the French Riviera at a finishing school for proper English girls, the show opens with the “Perfect Young Ladies” — here described as “in the making,” owing to the youth of the portrayers — looking forward to a costume ball that evening. One of them, the show’s heroine, Polly, finds herself without a beau to escort her. That is, until a messenger arrives to deliver her costume, and voila, they fall in love at first sight.
Love, in fact, runs rampant throughout the show and among its zany characters, who include a nobleman in disguise, a flapper-chasing codger and his nagging wife, Polly’s father, Percival, and his old flame Kiki, whom he knew in Paris during the Great War.
Originally presented in three acts, here the first two have efficiently been combined into one.
The book, music and lyrics were written by Sandy Wilson, a master at recreating the spirit of the era. The hardworking music director Velma Adams provides the nearly nonstop piano accompaniment.
The show moves fluidly from scene to scene and musical number to musical number. Choreographers Sharon Dwinnell and Lisa Bondi — who also displays a wonderful singing voice — keep the performers in frequent motion.
In the role of Polly, which provided a young Julie Andrews with her springboard to fame in this country, Shannon O’Rourke, in her eighth season with the troupe, sings in a lovely if slight voice. She is paired with David Ashtiani, whose voice may be described similarly, as her love interest Tony.
Under the loving direction of Louise Guinther, everyone on stage, from the youngest ensemble members whose ages have not yet reached double digits through the seasoned veterans who threaten to steal the show from the romantic leads, works cohesively.
The proceedings, off to a sometimes tentative start, gain momentum as the evening progresses. Becki Santana has a strong singing voice as Polly’s friend Maisie Merriweather. She is matched by Ludovic Coutaud as her wealthy love interest, Bobby.
Gingerbread veteran Jim Chamberlain injects a great deal of life into Percival. He is, perhaps, topped by another old-timer, Andrew Dinan, as the girl-chasing Lord Brockhurst.
Jillian Smith displays a surprisingly well-developed voice as Dulcie, a young lass who catches Brockhurst’s roving eyes; together they offer a musical highlight in the comic duet “It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love.” Another standout number is “The Riviera,” which puts the dancers to their most strenuous test.