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No Message, Just Fun

Robinson Secondary stages musical ‘The Boy Friend.’

Theatergoers looking for a good time will find it in Robinson Secondary School’s spring musical, "The Boy Friend." The curtain rises Thursday-Saturday, April 29-30 and May 1, and Friday-Saturday, May 7-8, at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $10 at www.RobinsonDrama.org.

“The past few years, we’ve done serious productions with a message,” said Director Chip Rome. “This one has no message. It’s just light, frothy and fun.”

The story takes place at a British, schoolgirls' finishing school in the 1920s on the French Riviera and marked Julie Andrews' American stage debut. With a cast and crew of 70, plus a 20-person orchestra, it’s Robinson’s biggest dance show in years.

“It’s songs and dances glued together with a little bit of plot,” said Rome. Two people will be talking and, just when you think they’ll burst into song, instead 50 people join them onstage and dance. And by the end of the scene, the 50 people have vanished.”

Senior Corrie McNulty plays Polly, 17, one of the girls at the school. “The story shows one day in our lives,” she said. “There’s a dance that night and we’re looking for dates because a boyfriend is the most important thing in our lives. Polly’s wealthy and constantly afraid that boys are only interested in her money, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend because her father’s so protective. Then when she meets a boy she likes, she pretends to be poor.”

McNulty likes the role because “we’re both 17 and interested in boys, and Polly’s emotions are over the top. She cries a lot, so it’s an emotional outlet for me. My favorite number is ‘The Boyfriend’ because I like singing with the whole ensemble and the dance has a kick line.”

McNulty said the audience will enjoy the catchy music. “It’ll get into your head and you’ll be singing it after you leave,” she said. People who like swing music will especially like it.”

Playing Dulcie, one of Polly’s best friends, is senior Micah Chelen. “She’s bubbly, naïve and innocent, a lot of fun and is often the center of attention,” said Chelen. “I have lots of freedom with the role, so I get to play around with her. I do a high-pitched, British accent that’s proper and bubbly, at the same time.”

Chelen likes the “Sur la Plage” number because “the entire second act is on the beach, and we’re in bathing suits. And out of the school setting, they can be fun and free and flirt with the boys. You get a better understanding of who they are. … It’s a really delightful show with lots of surprises that’ll make everyone happy.”

Junior Ben Johnson portrays Tony, born into a wealthy British family and educated at Oxford. “I’m spoiled and given everything I ever needed,” said Johnson. “But it’s not the life I want, so I leave Oxford and become a package-delivery boy. I’m trying to find myself by living the life of a common person. Then I meet Polly and instantly fall head-over-heels in love.”

Johnson’s role is fun, he said, because of Tony’s energy. “There’s so much he wants to show Polly, and he has this big dream of his future, the two of them living happily in a little house in the country,” Johnson said. “He’s a hopeless romantic.” He also likes the “cool dancing” in the numbers, “The Riviera” and “Poor Little Pierette.” Calling this show a lighthearted spoof of other musicals, he said, “It doesn’t take itself seriously, so it’s lots of fun.”

Playing Madame Dubonnet, the school’s headmistress, is senior Madison Auch. “She’s not stuffy and formal, but motherly, yet spunky with a sense of fun,” said Auch. “She’s also strong and can stand up for herself. When Polly’s widowed father, who was her old flame, visits the school, she pursues him again. I get to do a French accent and be serious with a fun and flirty side.”

Auch’s favorite song is “Safety in Numbers,” in which schoolgirl Maisie says she can’t pick just one boy. She wants to dance with them all. She says the show will be visually beautiful because of the period costumes, ranging from school uniforms to 1920s bathing suits to masks and gowns at a masquerade ball.

Choreographer is Cappie-winning dancer Logan Hillman, who began work in February, choreographing 16 of the show’s 17 numbers. Hardest, he said, is “getting it from my mind to paper and then to the actors and making any necessary changes. But this cast caught on pretty quickly to the dance basics. Then we worked on body ‘pictures’ on stage, their proximity to other dancers and the 1920s style of dancing.”

Hillman especially likes “The Riviera” because it’s so energized and best represents the style of that era’s shows. “The audience will like the dance flips, turns and spins,” he said. “I like choreographing as well as or better than acting because I’m a dancer and this is what I do. I’m doing my dancing through others.”

Director Rome said the show’s 1920s feel is carried out via the footlights around the stage and the numbers being performed directly to the audience, rather than to the other actors. Even the minor characters add “extra spice” to the story, he said, and both the colors and mood will be bright.

“The costumes, lights and set are bold and playful,” said Rome. “It’s tremendous fun so the audience will have fun, too. It’s like a Valentine to them. There’s no redeeming, social value — just entertainment.”