WOW’s 2013 show was the musical comedy The Boy Friend which ran from Monday 18th February to Saturday 23rd February 2013.
Michael Gray’s Blog
Sandy Wilson’s sure-fire hit show [now a sprightly sixty years old] was a clever choice for this young group. The catchy twenties pastiche, and the style opportunities it offers, help to carry a less experienced cast through Cathy Court’s inventive production.
The setting is simple but superbly done – an imposing flight of steps and a huge marine vista through French windows – and gives useful levels for the chorus work. Relatively easy to convert to the beach [lovely lamp-posts] and the café terrasse [polychrome stars – though gilt café chairs would be more authentic than the stackable seats we see].
The pace never flags; the choreography is ambitious and entertaining. No two numbers are alike – the witty, energetic title number, the Charleston, the Riviera, and some charming duets, they all have their special touches. I love the way the arms are used to make interesting shapes – something between semaphore and calligraphy. Occasionally a little more knowingness, slightly more sending-up, an arch aside or two, would help sustain the mock-musical-comedy mood.
The pit band [MD Robert Miles] produces an entertainingly authentic sound, and there are some very promising voices among the supporting characters, all given a chance to shine in the ensembles.
Some of these bright young things are very young indeed – closer to starting school than Finishing School – and aren’t gendarmes getting younger …
No surprise that the older, character parts present the biggest challenges: excellent work from James Simpson as the millionaire who once had a youthful fling with Mme Dubonnet [a strikingly chic Charlotte Watling] and Michael Watling makes the most of his Never Too Old number.
Hortense, the maid, is played with panache and a nice French accent by Sarah Williams, though she can hardly admonish her young ladies if she’s wearing such a provocative frock.
Madcap Maisie is Rosie Goddard, excellent in the Act I Charleston, ably partnered by Ed Tunningley’s Bobby. Pierrette Polly Browne is charmingly sung by Rachel Goddard, touchingly vulnerable just before she is reunited with Mark Ellis as her Pierrot, who’s perfectly in period with his clipped tones, and dances with flair in I Could Be Happy With You and A Room In Bloomsbury.
I was pleased to have the opportunity of reporting on this production. This is a particularly good choice for a youth group, bearing in mind the disciplines and the style of the period in which it is set. A cast of 22, a little smaller than for usual WOW productions, was nevertheless ideal for the stage and gave all performers a good opportunity to show their paces. Costume, particularly for the girls, was well chosen and to promote the overall atmosphere a number of appropriately clad usherettes were prominent in their attendance to audience needs. Elegantly hung drapes against good back cloths relevant to the scene, with lighting to enhance the latter, made excellent settings.
The overall performance had a high degree of brightness and energy, which was well maintained. Movement was choreographed and performed well with a refreshing degree of variation in the step patterns used. The general air of excitement, with its joy of life, anticipations and frustrations was well expressed and maintained among what one must call the young sector of the characters. However, there seemed to be less evidence of the overall range of age differences being displayed than was needed. I do not intend to pick out instances and individuals where this showed, as it did, but rather make the general comment that as age increases so speed of movement decreases, and that when acting one has often to over-emphasise the characteristic one wishes to convey. Vocally there were a few notes in solos/groups a little off centre, but with most of this work coming across well. The choral numbers came over with enthusiasm, with the male members of the company rather more prominent than the ladies, though, perhaps, with less elegance! A more serious problem lay in the overall level of projection from the stage, despite the valiant efforts of the sound control, with, presumably, a limited number of microphones. This led to the complete obliteration of voice, in certain instances, by an orchestra that otherwise played well, though the instrumentation did seem ‘heavy’ for the strength of voices and amplification available.
This was the second performance of the show, to an audience that was doubtless smaller than that of the first night – and thus by my own long experience, it will not have been the best performance of the week. BUT my wife and I enjoyed it greatly and I do congratulate all who have been involved in this show, which without doubt will give a great deal of pleasure to others over the whole week.
Well done indeed.
Report by John Warburton
Braintree & Witham Times Review
The major problem for a teenage company is that it has to keep inventing itself. No sooner do budding stars appear than they move on, leaving a fresh layer to emerge. For WOW this was an especially difficult year. Virtually all of the main leads from last year were no longer available.
But they need have no worry. The company is in in good hands. The younger than usual cast tackled the older than usual musical with the aplomb that is now expected of this society. In particular, Rachel Goddard and Mark Ellis stepped up from their earlier supporting roles to grab centre stage.
Goddard neatly captures the innocence and naivety of Polly, while Ellis has commanding presence and a strong singing voice as the Boyfriend of the title.
He bears little resemblance to the diminutive figure who was almost buried under an Elvis wig three years ago.
There are strong performances too from the secondary couple, Charlotte Watling and James Simpson. Watling exudes Gallic charm as the prim yet flirtatious headmistress, romances by Simpson’s sturdy yet needy Percival Browne.
Rosie Goddard and Isabella Tull also get a chance to step in to the spotlight, and look perfectly at home when they do so.
There were a variety of accents on show. Simpson, together with Michael Watling and Libby Johnson as Lord and Lady Brockhurst, give us cut glass Queen’s English, alongside Ed Tunningley’s American, and an assortment of French characters, including Sarah Williams’ captivating Hortense.
There were some strong singing performances, and it was good to see the males more than matching the exuberance of their partners when it came to the dancing.
The show was shorter than usual and the sound system occasionally let the actors down, but this was another success for the society, and one that bodes well for the immediate future.
Click here to download the programme for the show. It may take a few seconds to load.
See above our promo video of "The Boy Friend" which was kindly created for us by former WOW! member Jake Davis.