Sometimes when watching an old TV show or movie you may ask, “Did people ever really talk and act like that?” Shows like The Brady Bunch were so squeaky-clean and optimistic you have to wonder how anyone ever swallowed it. Well The Boy Friend takes a look at the impossibly upbeat musicals of the 1920’s, but it is in on the joke. The Point Park students have taken this “comic pastiche” and are putting it on at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
In the director’s notes Jack Allison explains how most musicals of the 20’s were plotless Cinderella stories that were heavy on singing and dancing but little else. The Boy Friend features a few plots, all of which require one sentence to explain. You’ve got “love-at-first-sight”, “old lovers reunited”, “the crazy kids”, “the bickering married couple”…all things you’ve seen before. The real story of this play is how stupid things seemed to be in the 20’s. The female chorus all dress the same way and even deliver some lines in total unison, because this is a universe where there’s no WAY a woman wouldn’t want a boyfriend. The “Cinderella” story is flipped on its head as our lead lovebirds lie and tell each other they’re poor and not children of money. All the cheeriness masks the fact you’re watching love stories about wealthy and unsympathetic characters.The cast throws itself hard into the spirit of the show. Arms wave wildly, lines are delivered right to the audience, everyone has huge grins on their faces…it’s quite the schmaltz fest. No one gets to really work on character development, but that’s fine because the script doesn’t ask them to. The large ensemble does one impressive dance number after another and the energy doesn’t dwindle for a minute. They tap, they flip, they do mulitple kicklines, and never show one sign of being tired.
Matt Augustyniak and Dorsey Ziller pull off an impressive number early on, “Won’t You Charleston with Me?”, that involves long spurts of dancing, multiple cartwheels, and then asks them to sing on top of it. It’s a tall order but they pull it off nicely. The cast is full of good voices (per usual from Point Park), with Kristin Serafini and Emmi Veinbergs busting out some beautiful harmonies in “Poor Little Pierette”, the closest the show gets to a heartfelt moment. Jeffrey Gorti and Lauren Lerant play a pair of pantomimes who serve as silent narrators and also creep me out. They povide a level of surrealism to the sugary show, as well as dancing an awesome out-of-mime tango in act two that portrays an abusive relationship against a backdrop of characters who would never worry about such a thing.The set is cute and simple, a few light changes effectively changing locations between each scene. The costumes are as bright and cheery as the characters wearing them, following a fun stereotypical gender-role blue/pink theme in the ensemble. Not to mention there’s a beach scene that puts the cast in fun 20’s-style bathing suits, which will make you question the last time you worked on your thighs at the gym.
The production numbers are all on point, but do get a bit repetitive. Almost every number has an encore, which becomes something of a recurring gag by act two. Songs are either duets or group numbers, and they’re all flirty and light. Again, that’s the joke: these characters are only worrying about one thing, and they’re not actually worrying. The point is hammered home repeatedly, but the enthusiastic performances don’t fail to entertain. The Boy Friend is a gentle mockery of the way shows used to be, a sugary treat that goes down easy.
The Boy Friend
Presented by The Point Park Conservatory at the Pittsburgh Playhouse
Directed by Jack Allison
Written by Sandy Wilson
Designed by Michael Thomas Essad (scenery), Michael Montgomery (costumes), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting), Steve Shapiro (sound), Jeff Swensen (photos)
Starring Jeffrey Gorti (Pierrot), Lauren Lerant (Pierette), Melessie Clark (Hortense), Dorsey Ziller (Maisie), Erica Hughes (Dulcie), Kristin Serafini (Polly Browne), Emmi Veinbergs (Madame Dubonnet), Matt Augustyniak (Bobby), Stanley Graham (Percival Browne), Michael J. Brown (Tony), Keaton Jadwin (Lord Brockhurst), Rachel Merdori (Lady Brockhurts), Female Ensemble: Marissa Mayer, Hannah Fairman, Annie Gagen, Cassie Lowe, Jasmine Overbaugh, Jennifer Arfsten, Lauren Gleichauf. Male Ensemble: Jared Roberts, Javier Manente, Kyle Coughlin, Cameron Jackson, Mason Lewis, Taylor Warren, Terran Swonke, Tony Lorrich.
The show runs today, March 1st and resumes on March 12-15 to accomidate for Point Park’s spring break. Tickets can be purchased here.
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Playhouse for complimentary press tickets.
Performance Date: Friday, February 27, 2015