The Boy Friend began life as Sandy Wilson’s small-scale pastiche of British musical comedies of the 1920s.
When the play was brought to America in 1954, its star was the teenage Julie Andrews, and because The Boy Friend required a minimum of sets, props, and costumes, it became a favourite of amateur theatre groups around the world.
But director Ken Russell, notorious for his onscreen excesses, abandoned the simplicity and fashioned a humongous parody of the Busby Berkeley film musicals of the 1930s, staged on a scale that made Berkeley seem stylistically modest.
Fashion model Twiggy plays Polly Browne, an aspiring musical comedy star, working as the assistant stage manager of a production of The Boy Friend.
She is transformed into a star when she replaces leading lady Rita Monroe (Glenda Jackson, unbilled, playing a cameo with relish), who twists her ankle seconds before the curtain goes up. Before the evening is over, Polly is scampering over outsized sets, and ducking around seemingly thousands of chorus girls and boys.
Christopher Gable, who plays Polly’s on-stage leading man, also choreographed the lavish musical numbers.
Max Mandeville (Mr Max)/Lord Hubert Brockhurst
Percy Parkhill/Percy Browne
Moyra Parkhill/Madame Dubonnet