The Boyfriend

Musical with music, lyrics and book by Sandy Wilson. The musical romance The Boyfriend is set in the 1920s at Madame Dubonnet's fashionable finishing school on the sun-kissed French Riviera, where young ladies are schooled in the finer arts of 'marrying well'. Here Polly Browne, a millionaire's daughter, tries to escape the stern influence of her father and find true love encouraged by Madame Dubonnet - but when Polly falls for Tony the delivery boy, and so pretends to be a mere working girl herself, matters become rather complicated! This charming musical includes numbers such as 'Won't you Charlston with me?' and 'I could be happy with you'.

1953/1954: West End London Premiere at Players, Embassy and Wyndham's Theatres

1967: 1st West End Revival at the Comedy Theatre

1984: 2nd West End Revival at the Old Vic and Albery Theatres

1994: London Revival at the Players Theatre

2006/2007: London Revival at the Open Air Theatre

2019: London Revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

Sandy Wilson on the background to the musical The Boyfriend: "The history of The Boy friend began in the autumn of 1952, when the Players' Theatre in London approached me about writing a scena in the 1920s period, to be included in their regular programme of Late Joys. It was to last an hour or so, and have a run of three weeks. When it was presented in the Spring of the next year, under the direction of Vida Hope, I found to my astonishment, that the little scena had suddenly become a successful musical - and one that was destined to last rather longer than three weeks. It eventually reached the West End, in a full-length version, in January 1954, and ran at Wyndhams Theatre for over five years. Later the same year it opened successfully on Broadway, and has subsequently played in most of the countries of the world. I consider that I was lucky in that The Boyfriend coincided with, and helped to foster, a nostalgia for the 1920s, which has since had a profound influence on fashion and entertainment."


1953/1954: West End London Premiere at Players, Embassy and Wyndham's Theatres

Opened 14 April 1953 (no previews), Closed Saturday 9 May 1953 at the Players' Theatre Club
Returned 13 October 1953, Closed 28 November 1953 at the Players' Theatre Club
Transferred 1 December 1953, Closed 9 January 1953 at the Embassy Theatre
Transferred 14 January 1954, Closed 7 February 1959 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast at London's Player's Theatre in April 1953 featured Anne Rogers as 'Polly Browne', Anne Wakefield as 'Maisie', Anthony Hayes as 'Tony Brockhurst', Claudine Goodfellow as 'A Gendarme', Fred Stone as 'Percival Browne', James Thompson as 'Marcel', Joan Gadson as 'Fay', Joan Sterndale Bennett as 'Madame Dubonnet', John Rutland as 'Lord Brockhurst', Larry Drew as 'Bobby Van Husen', Malcolm Goddard as 'Pierre', Maria Charles as 'Dulcie', and Violetta Farjeon as 'Hortense'/'Lady Brockhurst'.

The cast at London's Player's Theatre in October 1953, London's Embassy Theatre, and the original cast at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre featured Anne Rogers as 'Polly Browne', Alan Dudley as 'A Waiter', Anthony Hayes as 'Tony Brockhurst', Beryl Cooke as 'Lady Brockhurst', Bill Horsley as 'A Gendarme' (Players/Embassy), Hugh Forbes as 'A Gendarme' (Wyndham's), Denise Hirst as 'Maisie', Geoffrey Webb as 'Alphonse', Hugh Paddick as 'Percival Browne', Jack Thomson as 'Pierre', Joan Gadsdon as 'Fay'/'Lolita', Joan Sterndale Bennett as 'Madame Dubonnet', John Rutland as 'Lord Brockhurst', Juliet Hunt as 'Nancy', Larry Drew as 'Bobby Van Husen', Maria Charles as 'Dulcie', Stephen Warwick as 'Marcel'/'Pepe', Violetta Farjeon as 'Hortense', Eleanor McCready (Wyndham's), Robert Hargreaves (Wyndham's), and Stella Chapman (Wyndham's).

Directed by Vida Hope, with choreography by John Heawood, and designs by Reginald Woolley.

The role of 'Polly Browne' was played by Anne Rodgers from Tuesday 14 April 1953 to Saturday 2 February 1957; Patricia Webb from Monday 4 February 1957 to Saturday 25 October 1958; Patricia Vivian from Monday 27 October 1958 to Saturday 7 February 1959.

Originally presented as a short musical in April 1953, the show was expanded with a slightly larger cast, and a number of new songs including 'It's Nicer in Nice', and returned in October 1953, finally transferring to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre in January 1954 where stayed for a record-breaking six-year run, and 2,082 West End performances.

During the run there where three week-long 'cast holidays', coinciding with the Good Friday holiday, when there where no performances: Monday 4 to Saturday 9 April 1955 (reopened Easter Monday 11 April 1955); Monday 26 to Saturday 31 March 1956 (reopened Easter Monday 2 April 1956); and Monday 15 to Saturday 20 April 1957 (reopened Easter Monday 22 April 1957).


1967: 1st West End Revival at the Comedy Theatre

Opened 29 November 1967 (no previews), Closed 12 October 1968 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

The original cast featured Cheryl Kennedy as 'Polly Browne', Ann Beach as 'Hortense', Bruce Heighley as 'A Gendarme', Celia Helda as 'Lady Brockhurst', David Lloyd Jones as 'Pierre', Elizabeth Edmiston as 'Nancy', Frances Barlow as 'Maisie', Geoffrey Hibbert as 'Lord Brockhurst', Jacqueline Clarke as 'Dulcie', Jeremy Hawk as 'Percival Browne', Marion Grimaldi as 'Madame Dubonnet', Mark Moser as 'Marcel', Mary Hewing as 'Fay', Nicholas Bennett as 'Bobby van Husen', Noel Tovey as 'Pepe', Royce Mills as 'A Waiter', Suzanne Kerchiss as 'Lolita', Tony Adams as 'Tony Brockhurst', Trevor Jones as 'Alphonse', and Kate Hudson.

Directed by Sandy Wilson, with choreography by Noel Tovey, designs by Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot, and lighting by John B Read.

Prior to London's West End this production was presented at the Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from Wednesday 1 November to Saturday 18 November 1967, with the same cast, with the exception of Judy Russell as 'Lolita', and Tudor Davies as 'Alphonse'.


1984: 2nd West End Revival at the Old Vic and Albery Theatres

Previewed 12 July 1984, Opened 18 July 1984, Closed 18 August 1984 at the Old Vic Theatre
Transferred 20 September 1984, Closed 2 February 1985 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The cast at the Old Vic Theatre and the Albery Theatre featured Jane Wellman as 'Polly Browne', Anna Quayle as 'Madame Dubonnet', Bill Deamer as 'Pierre', Bob Newent as 'Bobby van Husen', Bronwen Stanway as 'Nancy', Derek Waring as 'Percival Browne', Jan Todd as 'Dulcie', John Griffiths as 'A Waiter', Linda-Mae Brewer as 'Maisie', Nigel Garton as 'Alphonse', Paddie O'Neil as 'Lady Brockhurst', Paul Easom as 'Pepe', Peter Bayliss as 'Lord Brockhurst', Philip Day as 'Marcel', Ria Kearney as 'Lolita', Rosemary Ashe as 'Hortense', Rossana Dane as 'Fay', Simon Green as 'Tony Brockhurst', Steve Aliffe as 'A Gendarme', June Bland, and Victoria Blake.

Directed by Christopher Hewett, with choreography by Dan Siretta, sets by Robin Don, costumes by Johan Engels, and lighting by Andrew Bridge. Entire production supervised by Sandy Wilson.

Prior to London's West End this production was presented at the Bromley Churchill Theatre from Thursday 12 April to Saturday 5 May 1984 with the same cast apart from Christine McKenna as 'Polly Browne', Glynis Johns as 'Madame Dubonnet', Jane Wellman as 'Fay', Kelly Hunter as 'Dulcie', and Paul Robinson as 'A Gendarme'.

Between the runs at the Old Vic and Albery Theatres this production, with the same cast, was presented at the Manchester Palace Theatre from Wednesday 22 August to Saturday 15 September 1984.


1994: London Revival at the Players Theatre

Previewed 7 April 1994, Opened 14 April 1994, Closed 8 May 1994 at the Players Theatre

The cast featured Gemma Page as 'Polly Browne', Conan Rice as 'A Gendarme', Deborah Bundy as 'Nancy', Geoff Steer as 'Pierre', James Davies as 'Bobby Van Husen', Jane Stoggles as 'Hortense', Jason Kimberley as 'Alphonse', John Atterbury as 'A Waiter', John Rutland as 'Lord Brockhurst', Judith Bruce as 'Madame Dubonnet', Karen Clegg as 'Maisie', Nick Ferranti as 'Marcel'/'Pepe', Oliver Hickey as 'Tony Brockhurst', Richard Owens as 'Percival Browne', Sarah Hadland as 'Fay'/'Lolita', Sophie-Louise Dann as 'Dulcie', Ursula Smith as 'Lady Brockhurst', Jane Faulkner, and Vanessa Heywood.

Directed by Maria Charles, with designs by Disley Jones, and choreogaphy by Geoffrey Webb.

A '40th Birthday Production', presented as a copy of the original 1953 staging, at the musical's original home at the Player's Theatre.

This revival was also notable for having three connections with the original 1953 cast: John Rutland reprised his role 'Lord Brockhurst'; it was directed Maria Charles, who had originally played 'Dulcie'; and the original choreography was reproduced by Geoffrey Webb, who had originally played 'Alphonse'.


2006/2007: London Revival at the Open Air Theatre

Previewed 18 July 2006, Opened 20 July 2006, closed 15 September 2006 (in repertory) at the Open Air Theatre
Returned 28 August 2007, closed 15 September 2007 at the Open Air Theatre Regent's Park

Ian Talbot's revival of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend in London

Following a sell-out run during the 2006 season, this production returns for a strictly limited three week season of just 25 performances.

The 2006 cast featured Rachel Jerram as 'Polly Browne', Anna Nicholas as 'Madame Dubonnet', Claire Carrie as 'Hortense', Haley Flaherty as 'Fay', Helen Owen as 'Nancy', Ian Talbot as 'Lord Brockhurst', James Bisp as 'Marcel', Jennifer Piercey as 'Lady Brockhurst', Joshua Dallas as 'Tony Brockhurst', Kylie Anne Cruickshanks as 'Lolita', Martin McCarthy as 'Pierre', Matt Dempsey as 'Alphonse', Matthew Clark as 'Pepe', Michael Rouse as 'Bobby Van Husen', Selina Chilton as 'Dulcie', Steven Pacey as 'Percival Browne', Stuart Nurse as 'A Gendarme'/'A Waiter', Summer Strallen as 'Maisie', and Vivien Care as 'Guest'.

The 2007 cast featured Rachel Jerram as 'Polly Browne', Anna Nicholas as 'Madame Dubonnet', Claire Carrie as 'Hortense', Ian Talbot as 'Lord Brockhurst', Kylie-Ann Cruikshanks as 'Lolita', and Martin McCarthy as 'Pierre' - who all reprised their roles from the 2006 season, along with - Alan Bradshaw as 'Pepe', Charlotte Warren as 'Dulcie', Chris Ellis-Stanton as 'Bobby Van Heusen', David McGranaghan as 'Alphonse', Gemma Sutton as 'Fay', Hayley Gallivan as 'Nancy', Joseph Pitcher as 'Marcel', Kate Nelson as 'Maisie', Margaret Tyzack as 'Lady Brockhurst', Richard Reynard as 'Tony Brockhurst', and Steve Watts as 'A Gendarme'/'A Waiter'.

Margaret Tyzack's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Lena' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me at the Playhouse Theatre in 2005; 'Auntie Grace' in Anna Mackmin's production of Morris Panych's Auntie and Me at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2003; 'Madame Pernelle' in Lindsay Posner's revival of Moliere's Tartuffe at the Lyttelton Theatre in 2002; 'Eleanor Swan' in Peter Wood's production of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink at the Aldwych Theatre in 1995; 'Miss Prism' in Nicholas Hytner's revival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Aldwych Theatre in 1993; and 'Martha' in Nancy Meckler's revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Lyttelton Theatre in 1981.

Directed by Ian Talbot, with choreography by Bill Deamer, designs by Paul Farnsworth, lighting by Jason Taylor, and sound by Gregory Clarke.

"The innocent charms of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend have survived the test of time admirably. This gently teasing homage to the musicals of the 1920s, written in 1953, is perfect light-hearted entertainment and suits the Open Air Theatre to a tee. Ian Talbot's production hits just the right notes: the characters are over the top but we laugh with them, not at them... Talbot's production is slick and he guides this frothy concoction with a sure hand. An excellent cast, arrayed in eye-popping costumes; manage the 'how ripping' script and leg-pulling lyrics of the musical numbers with aplomb. Rachel Jerram is suitably sweet, Anna Nicholas as Madame Dubonnet demonstrates some wonderful rolled Parisian rrr's and Talbot himself, in the plum role of lecherous old Lord Brockhurst, also shows impressive comedic skills." The London Metro

"Ian Talbot's production is perfectly judged and exquisitely executed. It is all that a show at the Open Air Theatre should be: sunny, breezy, light and as sweet as strawberries and cream. All that's required of an audience is to sit back and enjoy one delicious melody after another, from Won't You Charleston With Me?, which puts the performers through their paces in superlative style, to the charmingly comic It's Never Too Late To Fall In Love, sung by the roly-poly Talbot as an old darling who can't resist a young filly... Even Polly's permafrosted father, Percy, thaws out thanks to the molten charms of Anna Nicholas's Madame Dubonnet. 'I was a fool to pretend the old Percy was dead,' says Stephen Pacy, somehow keeping a straight face. Absolutely ripping." The Mail on Sunday

"In his new production for the Open Air Theatre, Ian Talbot, who also plays Lord Brockhurst - redfaced and endlessly optimistic about his chances with the perfect young ladies ('It's Never Too Late to Fall in Love') - preserves the show's essential innocence, and his cast rarely overdo the Wodehousian gusto. Particularly good in this respect were Polly (Rachel Jerram) and Tony (Joshua Dallas), while Summer Strallen as Maisie has something of the allure of a younger high-kicking Penelope Keith. Mics and midges notwithstanding, a pretty perfect way of spending a summer's evening in Regent's Park." The Sunday Telegraph

The Boyfriend in London at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre opened on 28 August 2007, and closed on 15 September 2007


2019: London Revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

Previewed 22 November 2019, Opened 3 December 2019, Closed 7 Mar 2020 at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre

The cast featured Amara Okereke as 'Polly Brown', Adrian Edmondson as 'Lord Brockhurst', Annie Southall as 'Dulcie', Bethany Huckle as 'Lolita', Chloe Goodliffe as 'Nancy', Dylan Mason as 'Tony Brockhurst', Emily Langham as 'Fay', Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson as 'Maisie', Issy Van Randwyck as 'Lady Brockhurst', Jack Butterworth as 'Bobby Van Husen', Janie Dee as 'Madame DuBonnet', Matthew Ives as 'Pepe', Peter Nash as 'Marcel', Robert Portal as 'Percival Brown', Ryan Carter as 'Pierre', Tiffany Graves as 'Hortense', Tom Bales as 'Alphonse', Craig Armstrong, and Alison Connell.

Directed by Matthew White, with choreography by Bill Deamer, designs by Paul Farnsworth, lighting by Paul Anderson, and sound Gregory Clarke.