The Boy Friend

Actress, director and author Julie Andrews made her American stage debut as “Polly” in a Sandy Wilson musical called “The Boy Friend” — which had fewer than 500 performances on Broadway during the mid-’50s. Her debut in theater director mode came nearly a decade later with a production of “The Boy Friend” performed in NYC, Connecticut and on tour.

Its ongoing appeal is evidenced by the numerous school and community theater productions mounted each year — including this season’s production of “The Boy Friend” by students at Grand Canyon University, which opened just last night and runs through next weekend. It’s the final production of their 2011/12 season, and the upcoming season — just announced — looks like this:

• “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare, Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and Sept. 7-9, directed by Claude Pensis. I’m told their production of the comedy about two pairs of lovers, originally set on the island of Sicily, will get an “Old West” twist.

• “Beauty and the Beast” by Vittorio Giannini and “Comedy on the Bridge” by Bohuslav Martinu, Oct. 12-14 and 19-21, directed by Michael Kary: Both one-act operas — the first a classic tale of finding love in unexpected places and the second a farce about two countries connected by a bridge — are described by GCU as plenty “family-friendly.”

• “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, Nov. 23-25 and Nov. 30-Dec. 2, directed by Claude Pensis. I’m told the show features Michael Kary as Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s Dickens. Enough said.

• “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov, Feb. 15-17 and 22-24, directed by Claude Pensis. Think fall of the Russian aristocracywith an “eccentric” vibe. It’s Chekhov, and it’s rarely performed around these parts — making it one of my favorite pieces coming to Valley stages next season.

• “H.M.S. Pinafore” by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, April 12-14 and 19-21, directed by Michael Kary. GCU notes that the 1878 musical, set aboard a British ship, was the first international sensation for team Gilbert and Sullivan — better known to some for “The Pirates of Penzance.”

It’s a diverse season full of fascinating takes on classic works. Click here to learn more about these and other offerings coming to the Ethington Theatre on the CGU campus (including an April 27 & 28 “Spring Dance Concert”).

— Lynn

Note: British actor, author and all-around astute fellow Simon Callow has authored works on Shakepeare and Dickens that help elucidate their work, life and times. Click here if you’re up for a little theater homework.

Coming up: Of Maine and men, Observing Holocaust Remembrance Day, Actors turned author

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