It’s clear from the very opening measures of the overture to North Fork Community Theatre’s new production of “The Boy Friend” that the folks involved in this play are having a rollicking good time.
This play by Sandy Wilson, first produced in London in 1954 and at one time one of the longest-running musicals in the West End, is a lighthearted story of love set in the French Riviera in the 1920s.
When you go see a musical at the North Fork Community Theatre, you know you’ll be treated to some fine voices — indeed, it seems their plays are cast with musical voices at the forefront of directors’ considerations.
“The Boy Friend,” which marks the directorial debut of NFCT president Mary Motto Kalich, is delightfully cast, and it’s clear from beginning to end that the actors are delighted by their roles.
“The Boy Friend” tells the story of Polly Browne, played by the tender Gabrielle Comanda, a rich young woman whose father forbids her to have a boyfriend because he believes any boy will only want her money.
From the start, Ms. Comanda’s Polly lags a bit behind the other students in her French finishing school. She seems a bit older, a world apart from the other girls whose only goal is to find a boy friend.
Lauren Sisson stands out as Madame Dubonnet, the headmistress of the school, who seems to love her role, quickly turning from a taskmaster to a seductress when she meets Polly’s father, Percival Browne, played by Bob Kaplan, with whom she’d had a fling so many years ago.
Ms. Sisson’s gentle mentorship of Ms. Comanda, asking her to believe in the power of love, makes for one of the most tender moments in the play.
Aria Saltini, fresh off her role as Dorothy in the Riverhead Blue Masques’ spring production of “The Wiz,” steals the stage as the confident redhead Maisie, who coyly courts every young boy she meets, while Christina Stankewicz had Friday night’s audience enthralled as Hortense, the maid at the finishing school who shows her bawdy side in the showstopping number “Nicer in Nice.”
Sam Notaro turns in a tender performance as Tony, a messenger boy who falls in love with Polly, who lies about her fortune in an attempt to win over his desire for a simple life.
The two reprise their duet, “I Could Be Happy With You,” throughout the production, but one of the most heartfelt moments in the play comes when the entire ensemble, many of whom aren’t in on their storyline but are also just looking for love, joins them in the song at the end of the second act.
Terry Brockbank also turns in a fine performance as the lecherous Lord Brockhurst, whose duet with one of the schoolgirls, Dulcie, played by Victoria Carroll, is pure camp. Dressed as the devil and nearly croaking the tune, Mr. Brockbank has Ms. Carroll absurdly chirping along as he promised her it’s “Never Too Late” to fall in love. Jan McGoey was perfect as Lady Brockhurst, his long-suffering wife.
The teenage boys and girls of Nice, all anxious to find true love, make up a fine ensemble. Ryan Zlatniski, Matt Tuthill and Jon Troiano play three French boys enamored with the English schoolgirls, while Patrick O’Brien, Maisie’s demanding suitor, joins them enthusiastically in the numerous dance numbers, as do the schooolgirls: Ms. Carroll, Saltini and Comanda, as well as Marie Werner and Raven Janoski.
The North Fork Community Theatre is often blessed with a talented pit orchestra, and this production is no exception. Under the masterful musical direction of William Roslak, the five-piece band takes charge of an unexceptional score, as Mr. Roslak’s chin served as the metronome that pushed the production forward.
The costumes, designed by Deanna Andes and Doreen Kirby and created by Pat Speed, Heather Cusack and Diane Peterson, were delicious, while the set had good feng shui, which kept the scene changes and entrances seemless.
This is a fun play, and a good reminder of the importance of love for a modern world dead-set on cynicism in romance.
“The Boy Friend” runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Nov. 9. Tickets are $20 and are available online here.