Written in 1975, Boy Meets Boy is a sparkling musical comedy set against the backdrop of the abdication crisis in pre-war Britain. The big difference is that this is an alternative 1936, where gay relationships are perfectly acceptable and high society is quivering with excitement at the impending nuptials of Boston millionaire Clarence Cutler and British aristocrat Guy Rose. It’s a bizarre leap to take but writers Bill Solly and Donald Ward take it with impeccable flair, crafting an exquisite pastiche that manages at turns to be both cheerfully sentimental yet vaguely subversive. Solly’s music and witty lyrics pay affectionate homage to the likes of Porter and Berlin while the book, co-written with Ward manages in one fell swoop to put the word ‘gay’ back into the term ‘gay musical comedy’.
Stephen Ashfield and Ben Kavannagh in Boy Meets Boy at Jermyn Street Theatre, London Photo: Polly Hancock
Stephen Ashfield brings a sense of worldly realism to the commitment-phobic journalist, Casey O’Brien, breaking as many hearts as he does news stories. O’Brien’s career as a lothario is finally stalled by Craig Fletcher’s shy, sensitive Guy Rose, a beauty hidden behind geeky spectacles and bad hair. Ashfield and Fletcher make an adorable couple, pulling off the humour of the hilarious It’s A Boy’s Life at the same time as developing a romantic storyline that is as sentimental as it is satisfying. Beyond the romance there is the louche comic delivery of Ben Kavanagh, as jilted groom Clarence Cutler, providing many of the laugh-out-loud moments throughout the evening and a thoroughly committed ensemble, bringing colour and vivacity to Solly and Ward’s screwball comedy.
Director Gene David Kirk’s lucid direction, his swansong as artistic director for this venue, is complemented by Lee Proud’s bold choreography that mirrors both the romance and the wit of the piece. Boy Meets Boy might not be to everybody’s taste, but there is an unfailing sense of optimism about this show that makes it one of the most pertinent revivals of the year.