Back in 1950s the Players' Theatre Club in Villiers St - in the arches under Charing Cross Station - were best known for their recreation of old style Music Hall and early Pantomimes. A revolving group of singers, dancers and comedians such as Hattie Jacques, Peter Ustinov, May Hallett, John Hewer and Ian Carmichael and host of other West End names-to-be of the period entertained in the raucous and ribald manner of their Edwardian predecessors. But in April 1953 the Club broke new ground by moving forward from the early 1900s all the way to the 1920s when composer/lyricist Sandy Wilson presented them with The Boy Friend. A gentle tongue-in-cheeky poke at the chiefly mindless but wildly melodic musicals of the 1920s.
|Geoffry Hibbert assures Dilys Laye that "It's Never |
Too Late" in the 1954 Broadway production.
Its a show I've always loved - I saw it first at the old Music Fair summer tent theatre with the New York Madame Dubonnet and Percival Browne (Ruth Altman and Eric Brown). And I shamefacedly admit that I actually appeared in a production of it one summer as Tony Broadhurst, the young hero - don't ask! Let me just say that we had a campy director-choreographer named Julian who kept insisting that I "show your profile, dear; just like Ivor Novello." It would have helped if I actually had a profile like the lovely Mr Novello.
One of my favourite numbers is one of those novelty duets: madcap flapper Dulcie has become disillusioned with the empty young men she's encountered and the venerable, if ever so lecherous, Lord Broadhurst thinks he may have the solution. The recording is from the original Broadway cast with Dilys Laye and Geoffry Hibbert - impersonated here by Billy Barkhurst and Steven Widerman of The Puppet Company.
Unfortunately the success of both The Boy Friend and the popularity of Miss Andrews spawned two highly forgettable movies - Kenn Russell's unfunny mutilation of the original and the very long and equally unfunny Thoroughly Modern Millie created as a vehicle to star Miss Andrews when they couldn't get the rights to the original. And sadly for Sandy Wilson a sequel guying the musicals of the 1930s was as unsuccessful as the movies. One of those occasions when theatrical magic only struck once.
April 14 - 1828: Noah Webster copyrights the first edition of his dictionary.