Romancing the Stage: “The Boy Friend,” the Feel-Good Time Everybody Needs

by N.L. Thi-Hamrick on February 25, 2019 in Entertainment, Theatre, Dallas/Fort Worth,
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Take a dash of whimsy, barrel of laughs, endless supply of high-kicking dance routines, and a slew of charming romances, and you’ve got the “The Boy Friend,” presented by The Firehouse Theatre. This fire-station-turned-theatre’s appeal is not limited to its intriguing history, numerous accolades or familial touches, but also its stellar performances that leave you invigorated and smiling ear-to-ear.

“The Boy Friend,” originally produced in 1953, is the musical comedy and book created by Sandy Wilson. Once the third-longest running musical in West End and Broadway history, this energetic pastiche of 1920’s romances heralded Julie Andrew’s American stage debut, and now graces the Dallas community. Presented by the incredible ensemble, band and production team of The Firehouse Theatre, this delightful spoof is at once jovial and flamboyant.

Presented by The Firehouse Theatre in Farmers Branch thru Mar 3rd, “The Boy Friend” is at once jovial and flamboyant. Photo Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography

The story follows the charismatic Polly Browne, played by Morgan Maxey, and her animated schoolmates who attend Madame Dubonnet’s School for Young Ladies in Nice, France. The female entourage kicks off the production singing “Perfect Young Ladies,” followed by a song titled after the play’s namesake, setting the stage for their fixation of finding the all-important boyfriend. Love, both old and new, is embraced, identities are mistaken, and hilarity ensues.

“I’d definitely see this again…it was so much fun!” one audience member effused.

“The Boy Friend director Derek Whitener admits he went “for silly,” with deliberate tongue-in-cheek humor.
Photo Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography

“As crazy as the world is, we need to be silly,” said director Derek Whitener. He admits he went “for silly,” with deliberate tongue-in-cheek humor, inspired in part by his own self-declared feminism that challenges the story’s premise of boy-crazy females with a light-hearted flare. Instead of applying a potentially critical 21st century lens to the play, we view the Roaring ‘20s through a kaleidoscope, creating a joyous ode to love’s longevity.

The auditorium bursts in a collage of vibrant colors, lively music and visual spectacles. Its authenticity is furnished with a unique set modeled after a French candy shop and reinforced with age-appropriate costumes from top hats to glittering headpieces, all of which are accompanied by an even more sparkling cast. Courtship and customs from nearly a century ago may differ from contemporary romance; but love, and the riveting throes experienced once under its bewitching spell, are shared unchangingly across generations. “The Boy Friend” transports us into our youth, when life was more carefree and love simpler.

The auditorium bursts in a collage of vibrant colors, lively music and visual spectacles.
Photo Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography

“Modern audiences have lost this feeling and we want to make them a part [of it],” Whitener said. “The Boy Friend” celebrates passion, and camaraderie amongst lovers and friends, made all the more compelling by real, off-stage relationships. Many cast members are school mates and have performed together for years; director Whitener and set designer Wendy Searcy are self-proclaimed “artistic soulmates.” Likewise, leading lady Maxey and the lead actor playing Tony, Gabriel Ethridge, are a devoted couple off-stage. Ethridge admits it was an incredible experience “working with someone [he] totally and completely trusts.”

“The cast is next level,” Ethridge emphasized, declaring he’s “never in [his] life” worked with an ensemble of this caliber, humbly admitting, “They steal the show every time.”

“There was so much raw talent!” another audience member underscored.

Originally produced in 1953, “The Boy Friend” heralded Julie Andrew’s American stage debut.
Photo Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography

Indeed, everyone did justice to the phrase “go big or go home,” showcasing complex choreography while belting show tunes, seamlessly. Situated above the stage, the band complemented the mood, providing robust background music that intertwined harmoniously with the ensemble’s voices, adding to the immersive atmosphere and upbeat pacing of the play. There is not one place to look without finding delight, including each cast member’s doe-eyed, grinning, quirky facial expressions – a true testament to their commitment to the role and the joy they feel on stage.

“This is, without a doubt, the most fun role I have yet to play,” Ethridge remarked.

“It is fun for the whole family. I don’t want anyone to miss out on the one-of-a-kind comedic bits that our director…has put into our production,” leading lady, Maxey said, “I’ve had so many audience members come up to me after the show and tell me that their cheeks were hurting from smiling so much.”

“The Boy Friend” is presented by The Firehouse Theatre (2535 Valley View Lane, Farmers Branch, TX 75234) from February 14 – March 3, 2019 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and matinee performances at 2:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $28 for adults, $20 for students.

Cover photo: Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography

N.L.Thi-Hamrick is devoted to all things that bring joy: good food, writing freely, lots of smiles, and pursuing things that make you feel worthwhile.