Comedy by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross. Bernard thought he could easily cope with his three air hostess fiancees - after all he lived close to the Orly Airport in Paris and so it was just a question of plane timetables and his reliable maid who never forgots to change the photographs in the bedroom and prepare the right food. But then, when the new 'Super' Boeing plane - with its faster flights - takes over he is landed with a triple problem. To add to the problem his old school friend Robert arrives unexpectedly and joins the jet set in a whirl of confusion and matchmaking.
"Normally it works out perfectly straightforwardly. Two days Gloria, two days Gabriella, and two days Gretchen. I'll show you how it works. Now then, Gretchen gets in from Stockholm this evening; at the same time, Gabriella, who has to fly out this afternoon, gets to Cairo, and Gloria will already be between New York and San Francisco - you see the work I have to do? Pure mathematics. Everything organised, regulated and working to the precise second. The earth revolves on its axis and my fiancees fly above the earth. One this way. One that. One towards the sun. One towards the moon. And eventually they all, in turn, come home to me. No alarms, no surprises. It's geometrical, so exact as to be almost poetic. And here I sit in the middle - the perfect example of polygamous despotism. Perfectly satisfied and healthy too. I don't just change my fiancees, I change my diet as well. It's like living in a restaurant. So there's no chance of ever getting bored. Either at table, or in bed. It's ideal." - Bernard describes to his friend Robert just how his 'system' works in Boeing Boeing.
But Gloria, the American Stewardess, tells Bernard some 'good news': "You know, darling, I'm really very happy. I'm happy because I think they're going to transfer me to a new machine. Brand new. The Super-Boeing. It's just fantastic. Delta wings and four Rolls-Royce turbo-jets. And do you know, darling, each jet has a thrust of nineteen thousand pounds. It'll make the journey so much faster, darling. So I'll be here more often and we can spend more time together..."
Boeing Boeing originally opened at the Apollo Theatre in London's West End in February 1962, later transferring to the Duchess Theatre where it completed a record breaking seven year run. The comedy transferred to Broadway in 1965, but only managed a short three week run of 23 performances, although later the same year it was made into a film starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. BoeingBoeing was Marc Camoletti's first great British success. In 1991, it was listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world. A later play by Marc Camoletti, Don't Dress For Dinner, also ran for seven years in London's West End, and also opened at the Apollo Theatre before transferring to the Duchess Theatre. In a long theatrical career, Marc Camoletti gained worldwide acclaim through the multitude of productions of his plays in numerous languages in some 55 countries. In Paris alone 18 of his plays have enjoyed around 20,000 performances in all. An Associate of the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts, Marc Camoletti became a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur - one of France's highest honours. He died in 2003.
1962: West End London Premiere
Opened 20 February 1962 (no previews), Closed 8 May 1965 at the Apollo Theatre
Transferred 10 May 1965, Closed 7 January 1967 at the Duchess Theatre
The original cast featured Patrick Cargill as 'Bernard', David Tomlinson as 'Robert', Carmel McSharry as 'Bertha', Carole Shelley as 'Janet, the American air hostess', Andree Melly as 'Jacqueline, the French air hostess', Jane Downs as 'Judith, the German air hostess'.
Directed by Jack Minster, with designs by Hutchinson Scott, and theme tune by Acker Bilk.
The role of 'Bernard' was played by Patrick Cargill from Tuesday 20 February 1962 to Saturday 8 May 1965; and Simon Merrick from Monday 10 May 1965 to Saturday 7 January 1967.
The role of 'Robert' was played by David Tomlinson from Tuesday 20 February 1962 to Saturday 20 April 1963; Leslie Phillips from Monday 22 April 1963 to Saturday 8 May 1965; Nicholas Parsons from Monday 10 May 1965 to Saturday 6 August 1966; and Peter Byrne from Monday 8 August 1966 to Saturday 7 January 1967.
The above casting does not take in account holiday time. For example, when Leslie Phillips, who was playing 'Robert', was on holiday for three weeks in March 1964, Patrick Cargill took on the role of 'Robert', while Howard Williams and Kenneth Firth both filled in for Patrick Cargill.
This production played its 1,998th performance on Wednesday 7 December 1966, overtaking Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, to become the longest running comedy ever in the West End. By time it had closed on 7 January 1967 it had played 2,036 performances.
2007: 1st West End London Revival
Previewed 3 February 2007, Opened 15 February 2007, Closed 5 January 2008 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)
A major revival of Marc Camoletti's comedy Boeing-Boeing in London
The names for the three air hostesses used in this revival where: the Italian 'Miss Alitalia' Gabriella; the German 'Miss Lufthansa' Gretchen; and the American 'Miss TWA' Gloria.
The ORIGINAL cast from Saturday 3 February 2007 to Saturday 26 May 2007 featured Roger Allam as 'Bernard', Mark Rylance as 'Robert', Frances de la Tour as 'Bertha' (up to Saturday 28 April 2007), Patricia Hodge as 'Bertha' (from Monday 30 April 2007), Daisy Beaumont as 'Gabriella', Michelle Gomez as 'Gretchen', Tamzin Outhwaite as 'Gloria' (up to Saturday 12 May 2007), and Amy Nuttall as 'Gloria' (from 14 May 2007).
The SECOND cast from Monday 28 May 2007 to Saturday 29 September 2007 featured Adrian Dunbar as 'Bernard' (up to Saturday 1 September 2007), Kevin McNally as 'Bernard' (from Monday 3 September 2007), Neil Stuke as 'Robert', Patricia Hodge as 'Bertha' (up to Saturday 23 June 2007), Rhea Perlman as 'Bertha' (from 25 June 2007), Elena Roger as 'Gabriella', Doon Mackichan as 'Gretchen', and Amy Nuttall as 'Gloria'.
The THIRD cast from Monday 1 October 2007 to Saturday 5 January 2008 featured Kevin McNally as 'Bernard', Neil Stuke as 'Robert', Jean Marsh as 'Bertha', Elena Roger as 'Gabriella', Tracy-Ann Oberman as 'Gretchen', and Jennifer Ellison as 'Gloria'.
Directed by Matthew Warchus, with designs by Rob Howell, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Claire van Kampen, and sound by Simon Baker.
"The revival of 1962 French farce Boeing Boeing boasts a star-packed bill but packs little punch. It's potentially a riotous situation: playboy Bernard has kept three air stewardess fiancées on the go by ensuring their flight paths never cross but a change in their schedules threatens his sensitive arrangement... Although Matthew Warchus has removed the original script's racist jokes, he accentuates the dated sexual politics. He also leaves the cast to flog the jokes to death and the crackling tension essential for good farce is overlooked... The play smacks of an opportunity wasted, tediously drawing out what could have been a sharp-witted, tightly executed, neat, little, comedy." The London Metro
"The original Sixties production of the French farce Boeing-Boeing lasted seven years in the West End, 19 years in Paris and 21 days on Broadway. Judging from the hysterical reaction of the first-night audience, this modern revival with an all-star cast will fly and fly. But I am with the Americans. If it were up to me, this painfully unfunny production of a witless piece would be locked away in its hangar after two-and-a-half hours. I cannot over-stress that other people seemed to think this was the most hilarious evening they had ever experienced... Unlike the deliciously complex, onion-layered farces of our own Ray Cooney, for example, you can see exactly what's going to happen. The only extra ingredient is the arrival of Bernard's envious provincial friend Robert who becomes the centrepiece of the action... Designer Rob Howell deserves credit for his fabulously chic Sixties set." The Daily Express
"This production, directed by Matthew Warchus and translated by Beverley Cross, has the words 'stonking great West End hit' written all over it... Mark Rylance seems to be in heaven in a low farce and Frances De La Tour, for her part, seems to have reverted to her Rising Damp days... As for the girls themselves, I hesitate to call the three over-the-top national stereotypes that they deliver acting, in the true sense of the word. but whatever it is that they are doing on stage it made me laugh so I am not complaining. The revelation of the evening was, however, Roger Allam... this man proves himself now a master of comedy. He is almost irritatingly brilliant." The Sunday Telegraph
Boeing Boeing in London at the Comedy Theatre previewed from 3 February 2007, opened on 15 February 2007, and closed on 5 January 2008.