Venue : Woodrush High School
Date : October 1973
Genre : Musical
Bobby Van Heusen
The Bright Young Things of the 20's
The Bright young things of the 20's brought a welcome splash of colour and gaiety to the wintry gloom of the first week of dark nights, with Wythall Dramatic Society’s presentation of Sandy Wilson’s ‘The Boyfriend’ at Woodrush School all last week, writes Val Lewis.
The cast’s own infectious enthusiasm communicated itself to their audience within the first few moments of this musical, an ambitious venture for the society, whose members had, overnight it seemed, become all-dancing, all-singing to execute the Charleston and other complicated dance routines with assurance.
In fact, apart from choreographer Jose Smith and guest artistes Jenny and Brian Durband, only two of the society’s members – Val Archer and Beryl Linforth – had any actual dancing experience, and rehearsals have been a strict two nights a week for the past three months.
“We just had to teach them all to dance,” said Jose, adding: “some of the mend found it a bit hard going, but the girls all took to it well, and although it was hard work we think it was well worth it.”
The audiences thought so too, judging by their appreciative reception of the show which played to packed houses most nights.
With a cast as large as 25 it is impossible to comment on more than a handful, but inevitably one or two performances stood out in Keith Booth’s lively and fast moving production. Estelle Shutkever’s colourful and beautifully dressed interpretation of Madame Dubonnet, principal of the Young Ladies Finishing School in Nice, displayed just the right blend of humour and nostalgia – with a pleasant singing voice into the bargin.
Undoubtedly, Beryl Linforth was an ideal choice for the vivacious Maisie, with real dancing ability and a splendidly 20s singing and speaking voice, as also had Tessa Illing as Dolcie, looking just as though she had stepped out of a magazine of the era.
The other ‘young ladies’ were delightfully and individually portrayed by Jean Winter, Val Evans and Willa Hislop, also other members of the cast doubling in other parts in the play – notably Sybil Parr, who gave, as usual, a very entertaining characterisation of the leading man’s snooty mum, Lady Brockhurst, very aptly costumed in the floral floating chiffons of the time.
Val Archer and Frank Winter, as romantic leads Polly and Tony, executed their duets in true 1920s style, Val having plenty of opportunity to use her good singing voice and Frank partnered her dancing with confidence
All the costumes were made by the company with careful attention to detail and colourful blending and Ken Gibbon’s settings complementing them simply but effectively.
Jose Smith’s smooth choreography and Phil Smith’s brisk musical interpretation of the score gave and excellent polish to this very happy and entertaining version of the famous muscical, which would have been a credit even to a solely musical society.
Val Lewis, Local Redditch Paper
Bright and Colourful Version!
Critic rating ***
Wythall Dramatic Society are presenting a bright and colourful version of ‘The Boyfriend’ at Woodrush High School.
R. Keith Booth’s production flows smoothly and has some delightfully presented principal roles and a lot of good and enthusiastic teamwork.
Some of the smaller parts need to be tackled more confidently and the concentration needs to be sustained so that there is a tighter grip on the action towards the end.
It is all a generally faithful and entertaining look at Sandy Wilson’s glance at the 20s and it gains considerably from Jose Smith’s choreography and Phil Smith’s emphatic but sprightly musical direction.
R.B., Local Paper