Historical Documents – 1962 ‘The Boyfriend’

By Geoff Ward
1962, Oberlin Review

[JPG of original article – 233K]

I loved “The Boy Friend” from absurd beginning to ludicrous finale. It is fast, funny, and delightful, and it should be enjoyed, not analyzed. The show is a spoof of the ‘twenties musical, and every corny line and irrelevant song is, and is meant to be, gloriously ridiculous. The plot is silly; the chorus dashes on and off for no known reason; the characters constantly break into tender song and are as rapturous at the final curtain as the audience.

It is refreshing to see such zest and drive on the Oberlin stage where all too often everyone works so hard to be serious that the show dies of its own earnestness. It is also refreshing to see an Oberlin production of a show which Oberlin students are capable of doing, and doing well. “The Boyfriend” demands good, but not necessarily great, singing and dancing plus a great deal of verve.

The singing and dancing and verve are here, and if “The Boy Friend” is a fair sampling, they are here in delightful abundance. I have never seen a more infectiously joyous show. The cast seems to be enjoying itself so much that even the soberest member of the audience must go along. I was tempted, especially at the end of the first act, to dash up the aisle, don boater and blazer and join right in. I restrained myself, but it was a close thing.

I don’t mean to imply that Oberlin students shouldn’t attempt plays far beyond their reach; the experience of working on a difficult play is important to student actors and audiences alike, but it is wonderful to see such an unpretentious show done with so many fine performances and no bad ones. There aren’t even any of the incompetent walk-ons which do so much to destroy the effect of most more somber productions. Credit for this and for much more much be given to Beverly Ball, who staged and directed the show with wit, skill, and apparently inexhaustible enthusiasm.

The general performance level is so high, higher than in any Oberlin production that I can remember, that it is dangerous to signal out individuals for specific mention. Nearly everyone was good, but some were better than good and deserve special applause. Having (hopefully) made my peace with those who go unmentioned I will choose my favorites and hope that those who see the show will feel free to choose their own.

Sue Quinn uses her justly famous eyes and voice to make of Polly a delightful (if somewhat subdued) ingénue. Tony Wells, as Tony, sings, acts, postures, and above all, moves with such tongue-in-cheek wit and grace, that he continually stops the show. Together, Tony and Polly are always delightful.

David Newman as the creaking lecher, Lord Brockhurst, is uproariously funny and shows again that he is not only a fine actor, but a first-rate comedian as well. His wildly eccentric walk, in which mysteriously his ankles seem completely detached from his feet will almost surely roll you limply on the floor. His duet with Deborah Belchetz (Ducie) is brilliantly played and very funny.

[…] “The Boyfriend” is delightful. Go see it; you’ll laugh a lot and with finals coming up that’s saying a great deal.