Detroit’s Hilberry Theatre, where I’m currently spending quite a bit of time, will complete its season opening run of Boeing Boeing this weekend. Their stage won’t be dark for very long as Romeo and Juliet waits in the wings to open three weeks from now.
So before Boeing flies away to another destination, I wanted to offer a few words of appreciation towards this particular production. I also forgot that I wrote a similarly reflective post after the second time I saw the show.
Of the now four times I’ve seen this show presented – in London, Walnut Creek, Wilmington and now here – this was the most humane version I’ve seen. None of the other productions gave me a sense of what the characters might be like offstage or what their wider story is like. None of the other productions suggested the complications of the air hostesses’ lives as they navigated their complex timetables and globe trotting jobs.
Granted, it’s unclear how much my knowing the actors and actresses might be playing into my impressions here, and how much the audience is intended to identify with each character — that latter detail is always a role of the dice — but the attention to character detail seems particularly notable in this Hilberry production. Not to forget that this version also changes the gender of a major character, with satisfying and memorable results.
So I’m sure that the show will ride off into the sunset on the jet stream of appreciation, and here’s hoping it has a cruising final quartet of performances up to Saturday evening.
In honor of the Hilberry Theatre‘s about-to-open production of Boeing Boeing, a look back at when I first saw the play:
The West End felt like a foreign land to me yesterday after nearly a week of commuting from the city to the country for filming. It was good to be back “in town”, even though I splurged a bit on food and theatre tickets for the day. Yesterday the British press was downright gleeful over the pound’s recent (Monday) cracking of the 1 pound=$2 barrier. I grimaced, but again, am grateful to be paid in the local currency.
Returned to the theatre scene after nearly a week’s gap for a double-bill of glitzy West End shows. First up was a new revival of Cabaret done in a socially conscious yet still very sexual and emotionalist style. The cast of the play has recently completely changed, which might have been a reason that their creative energy felt un-even to me. It probably didn’t help that the audience, at least in the stalls, was only ½ to 3/4 full and somewhat somber. In the second act, the ensemble built up to a powerful climax of the play that I didn’t remember having the same devastational feel when I saw the Hampshire version in 2004. Also, Honor Blackman, whose presence in the cast was the primary reason I went to see the show, gave a warm, thoughtful performance as Fraulein Schneider, and has an amazing amount of vitality. I waited outside the theatre in hopes of getting her to sign my program, but unfortunately she didn’t appear for the (short) break between matinee and evening performances. Will go back next week for another try, and if successful, I will have met 3 of the 4 Avengers leading ladies – and that’s important to me since that series was my first, endearing taste of Britain.
The second play, Boeing-Boeing, was the best comedy I have seen all year, and has attracted glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike since its February opening. The show is written as a French farce, and originally premiered in the West End in the mid-60’s. The slightly updated, but still dated-feeling plot concerns a bachelor who practices polygamy in Paris, juggling romantic lives with three different air hostesses who never intersect due to differences in their flight timetables. But when the man’s best friend comes for a visit and one by one, all three women’s work schedules get delayed, it creates a dramatic domino effect leading to a farcical, clever climax. Those type of plays can only really work if the cast members are “on” with energy and dramatic commitment, and that was clearly present with nearly all the actors here. Frances de la Tour (the female teacher in The History Boys, here playing the protagonist’s long-suffering maid in on the trick) and Mark Rylance (a British actor who used to direct the Globe Theatre, as the protagonist’s best friend) stood out amongst the six-actor ensemble. They were helped by an on-the-ball script, skilled comedic direction (from the same man who is now putting finishing touches on The Lord of The Rings: The Musical), opulent set design and a swinging sixties soundtrack that I wanted to buy in album form.