Jeff Green | May 15, 2019
The Boy Wonder completed a successful four day run at Granite Ridge Education Centre on Sunday afternoon. The Mother’s Day matinee had a modest audience, but sellouts on the previous two nights and a very well-attended opening night on Thursday made it one of the most popular productions for the 40-year-old community theatre company in recent years.
The play was both an original work and a throwback at the same time. It was conceived, written and directed by long time NFLT lighting director, Jeff Siamon.
Siamon is a fan of old-time musicals of the 1930’s and 40’s that were often about putting on a musical. The Boy Wonder includes a play within a play, and is constructed around songs that were drawn from the post World War I era.
The Boy Wonder of the title is Guy Martin (Christopher Hall). At the beginning of the play, he is a few days from the opening of his make or break musical “A Woeful Love” when his star and lover, Deloris (Angela Cowdy), quits. It takes him quite a while to realise what the audience has known from the start: that the typist, Monica Jones (Danielle Hall), is destined to be the star of the show and of his heart. It will take a while, but in the end “A Joyful Love” ends up being destined for Broadway successful and Guy and Monica have become an item.
There is a point, about halfway through the play, when Monica tells Guy something that, in retrospect, Jeff Siamon was also telling the audience. In the scene where the title of “A Woeful Love” is ultimately changed, Monica tells Guy that he should turn his play into a revue, because the music tells the story anyway and the audience comes out for the music, not the storyline.
This was certainly the case with A Boy Wonder, which had 24 musical numbers, creating an opportunity for not only the two leads to sing several numbers, both together and apart, but for a number of secondary characters to perform one or two songs. The chorus, as well, took centre stage at one point.
The best thing about A Boy Wonder were the musical performances. The two leads, who are newly weds in real life, complemented each other well. Danielle Hall, well known to NFLT fans from when she was a youngster, has an ease on the stage and the comic timing to keep the action flowing, as well as the singing talent to navigate a wide variety of songs. Christopher Hall, who comes from a family that is steeped in music, seemed to hit every note effortlessly and beautifully. Together, they carried the play, and some of their performances (hers: Second Hand Rose, Melancholy Baby, his: Anytime, After I Say I’m Sorry and together: Put Your Arms Around Me) were among the highlights of the production.
Other major characters included Mitzi (Megan Hall - Christopher’s sister) and Summer Storm (Sarah McCullough). They are both first time performers who both fully inhabited their roles, Mitzi as the plucky theatre insider and confidant to Monica, and Summer as a burlesque performer looking for a way into the legitimate theater. They made the most of their scenes, and belted out their songs when the opportunity came.
NFLT veterans, Brian Robertson as Victor and Angela Cowdy as Deloris, also mugged their way through in admirable fashion, as did Braidey Merigan as Wendell Bradshaw. In non-singing roles, Greg Morris as Guy Martin’s unsupportive father, Terence Martin, was the picture of cold villainy, and Marc Veno as the gangster, Eddie Bradshaw, was in full comic book mode.
Martina Field and Virginia Beckett were positively ditsy as sister chorus girls without a lot of talent. The chorus: Pam Giroux, Joan Hollywood, Linda Bush, Margo McCullough and Carol Morris, added depth to many of the musical numbers. Rounding out the cast were Rudy Hollywood, John Stephen and Evangeline Michie as the porter, bartender, and flower girl, respectively.
The costumes (Geoffrey Murray), set design (Steve Scantlebury) and staging of the Boy Wonder were also effective, thanks to the efficient work by the stage crew under stage manager, Barb Scantlebury, who kept the numerous set changes quick.
The Boy Wonder ran long - almost 3 hours with two intermissions. Although it could have been shorter, the quality of the production numbers was at a very high level, keeping the audience fully engaged to the end during the Friday night performance that I attended. John Inglis on piano and Adam Parker on a programmed keyboard that simulated a fuller orchestration also did well, although on some occasions the music was too loud, making the vocal solos harder to hear.
The Boy Wonder was a massive undertaking for Jeff Siamon and the NFLT, a fitting kick-off for its 40th anniversary year.