The Boy Friend at Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, WA

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I closed out my weekend of theatre at Renton Civic Theatre to see their production of The Boy Friend, a story of a young girl, Polly, in 1920s France who is at a finishing school hoping to find herself a boyfriend so that she can end up married.  She fabricates a boyfriend until she falls for a delivery boy, Tony, whom she lies to about her identity because she’s a very wealthy heiress, and is afraid to tell him the truth for fear of him wanting her for her money.  Unbeknownst to her, he is also in disguise, as the son of an English Lord, which of course, is a wonderful thing to find out as that’s how Brits made marriages back in the day.  He has a title, she has money…a perfect match!

These young star-crossed lovers are surrounded by a cast of characters, one more unforgettable than the next, because this production was absolutely awful.  Let’s start with the fact that it’s a musical.  Therefore the music should be done well.  It was not.  Not from the pit, not from the stage, not from anywhere!  It sounded atrocious.  Music Director Aimee Hong took on the roles of music direction, conducting and playing keyboards, and I feel this was too much.  For a show of this magnitude, I was surprised to see Ms. Hong listed as playing the keyboard as well as conducting.  Perhaps if she streamlined her focus to conducting, and hired a piano player she could focus more on perfecting the music so that it’s pleasing to the ear.

Add to that, the fact that this is an old-school musical where it’s mostly singing and dancing, and by dancing I mean tapping, and this cast of 19 had maybe 4 people who could tap, and the rest couldn’t tap if their lives depended on it, and yet, all of them tapped so much.  Sooooooooo very much, it killed me!  Note to theatre-makers out there…if you’re going to do a tap show and you don’t get tappers out, only let the ones tap who know what they are doing and please, for the love of all that his holy, don’t showcase your worst dancers by placing them in the front and/or in white tights and black shoes to show off how terribly off the beat they are!  I’ve choreographed many a show in my day, mostly for community theatre shows, so there is a way to choreograph novice dancers in a dance heavy show, but the choreographer of this show clearly had no idea how to do that.

This is the type of show that needs a Director/Choreographer, and yet Renton Civic split those roles, to the detriment of both people tasked with these jobs.  I have no idea what the director, John Kelleher, actually had to direct, because by my count there was about 3.5 minutes of the 2.5 hour show that wasn’t dancing and singing.  This left nothing but stage time for Taylor Davis to create, and in my opinion, she failed miserably.  The choreography was too difficult for most of the dancers in her cast, repetitive choreography that was boring in so many parts, and too many people were dancing on that stage.  But the biggest shocker was she did have one phenomenal tapper in her cast, Miss Erin Glaman, who was buried in the chorus for most of the show save for one small duet where she was barely allowed to tap at all!  Made no sense to me.

Honestly, Ms. Glaman out-sang, out-danced and out-acted everyone, including the lead, and I’m not quite sure why she wasn’t cast as Polly, especially given that she’s actually the age Polly is supposed to be, but only the production staff knows what goes on around a casting table.  She was one of only two shining lights in the cast for me.  I look forward to seeing Ms. Glaman in more shows, as she’s only 17 years old, so well done, Ms. Glaman!  Good for you!

The other was Marc “Mok” Moser as Percival Browne, Polly’s father.  He was delightful, and the only actor on that stage who fully understood the presentational style needed for this style of musical.  None of the young actors had a clue how to do the presentational style they were directed to do, and I’m not sure if that’s a fail on the part of Mr. Kelleher or on the cast not knowing how to interpret his direction.  Either way, it drove me nuts!  But Mr. Moser’s scenes were quite wonderful so I am glad I stayed for the whole show to see his full performance.  And believe me, it was tough to do, as bad as this show was.

Did not like this show.  Was not entertained hardly at all.  And the sad state of the music alone will have me hesitating to go back to a Renton Civic show.  The cast looked like they were having a good time out there, but this critic was left seriously disappointed.

Ciao for now,

M sm

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3 thoughts on “The Boy Friend at Renton Civic Theatre in Renton, WA

  1. I probably shouldn’t have read your critical review before I saw the performance tonight – Sat, June 20th. Someone in the audience told me that the original score was written for a banjo player, but they couldn’t find one, so Aimee Hong decided to substitute the keyboard. I thought the music was done fairly well. However, the singing definitely could have been better. It just seemed to be off key. But, I would not have been so critical of Aimee as the music director, conductor and keyboardist. The problem that I had with the music was that the score was too repetitive and should have been improvised more. And, it would help if they had found, or produced, better singers.

    The cast seemed to be quite a bit older than the parts that they were playing. And, I found that I just did not care for the actors because they were just throwing out their lines, they weren’t presenting any real emotion while in character. The direction of the actors from John Kelleher must not have been very good.

    You spoke about the poor ability of the dancers to tap. But apparently, since the first show, the choreographer, Taylor Davis, must have modified many of the scenes where there was tapping so that in most of the scenes the cast only pretended to tap. I would say that for a small, local theater, it was not a good choice to choose something like “The Boy Friend” because it requires great musical talent, great singing and tap dancing.

    In watching this musical, I did discover that I really like major Broadway musicals like Les Miserables, Carmen, Miss Saigon, Amadeus and The Return of Martin Guerre. And, I like Shakespeare’s dramas and comedies because of the great writing. But, in an age where we are constantly bombarded with great entertainment, it’s really tough to go back to local theater and really enjoy the performance. I would agree that the performances of Miss Glaman and Mr Moser were the highlights of the show, but I would also add Mr. Kohel. His duet with Miss Glaman I thought was delightful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, I couldn’t agree more with your words. Live theatre is such a subjective thing, I always love hearing how others experience shows I see.

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