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Reading Operatic Society

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Kenton Theatre.

Box Office

01491 575698.

Review of The Boy Friend

26th to 30th September 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Better the second time around

Reading Operatic Society: The Boyfriend, at The Hexagon, from Tuesday, September 26 to Saturday, September 30

Seven years ago I reviewed Reading Operatic Society's The Boyfriend at the Hexagon, directed by the husband-and-wife team of Jill Morgan and John Lawes, so I returned for a second time with a feeling of déjà vu.

Amateur societies often repeat shows in a short space of time, usually for their box-office potential. The danger is that people will be cast in the same parts, so producing a clone of the original, but R.O.S. avoided that trap.

It is hard to believe that Sandy Wilson's charming '20s pastiche is now more than 50 years old. The script, written by the composer himself, still sparkles and the music captures the era well. There was a youthful feel to the first act as we were introduced to the Perfect Young Ladies, completing their education at Madame Dubonnet's Finishing School in Nice.

Tania Pratt, reprising her role as Polly Browne, impressed as always with her assurance on stage.

Among her schoolgirl 'chums', Emma Curtis was a delightful Dulcie, while Madcap Maisie was portrayed by the outstanding Jenni Simmonds, partnered by Harry Goff as her would-be beau, Bobby Van Husen. The latter couple had a rapport seen at its best in the dance number Won't You Charleston? as well as an amusing Carnival Tango in the ball scene.

In contrast, the older members of the company were led by the returning Maggie Preston and Keith Lawrence as Madame Dubonnet and her erstwhile lover Percival Browne. Their combination proved even more delicious this time around. Their scenes and songs together were a comedy masterclass, highlighted by the teasing You-don't-want-to-play-with-me blues number.

The other standout partnership was Lord and Lady Brockhurst, (Raymond Burton and Yvonne Maynard). He was the stereotypical upper-class 'dirty old man' in tweed jacket and plus-fours, at his comic best when trying to seduce Dulcie in It's Never Too Late To Fall In Love, while she was his dragon of a wife, desperately aiming to keep him in check. The audience loved it.

Company numbers such as The Riviera added colour and movement, accompanied by a tight orchestra conducted by Tony Wythe, doing a fine job with the baton as a last-minute replacement for the indisposed John Lawes.

On leaving the theatre, I was reminded of the Sondheim song I Never Do Anything Twice. Fortunately, on this occasion, Reading Operatic Society decided to ignore that advice and produced a show that was definitely better the second time around.


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