In the mid-60s, the movie “Boeing Boeing” featured two darlings of American cinema, Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. This uproarious stage comedy penned by French writer, Marc Camoletti, was originally presented in London in 1962 and immediately became an international hit spawning productions across the globe, including Broadway.
The movie, like the play, centers around the misadventures of playboy Bernard (played by Curtis) who becomes engaged to three flight attendants, each working for different airlines. Their flights scheduled to arrive and leave at differing times so the women would never meet, Bernard’s iron-clad plan is thrown into disarray when their schedules commingle, allowing them to connect. When his friend Robert (played by Lewis) arrives from America, the situation begins to escalate, and is not helped when the acerbic housekeeper, played in the movie by the comedic actress, Thelma Ritter; keeps hilariously inserting herself into both men’s affairs.
The difference between the play and the movie rests primarily in presentation. In the movie, the international flair was predominant, with the airport as the backdrop when Curtis juggled his relationships with the airline attendants. In the play, everything takes place in Bernard’s apartment, and as the women adhere to strict flight schedules that never seem to cross, Bernard is sure his plan of romancing three different women from three different countries is foolproof.
But, as in the movie, the attendants do indeed begin arriving at his Parisian flat at the same time, leaving Bernard and Robert chaotically trying to prevent them from interacting with each other. This all takes place under the watchful eye of Berthe, the housekeeper, who can’t help but interject herself into the frantic machinations.
This classic French play opened on Broadway in 1965, was revised on London’s West End in 2007 and revived once again on Broadway in 2008, earning over 10 Tony nominations and winning five, including Best Performance by an Actor (Mark Rylance, who played American friend, Robert) and Best Revival of a Play. In addition to Rylance, comedic actress Kathryn Hahn played the American flight attendant; A-list actor, Bradley Whitford played Bernard; popular actress Christine Baranski was housekeeper Berthe; Gina Gershon was Gabriella, the Italian attendant; and Mary McCormack played Gretchen, the German flight attendant.
With its distinguished pedigree, “Boeing Boeing” arrives at the May River Theatre readying itself for takeoff with a dynamic cast that will delight audiences and leave them laughing. Under the tutelage of Director D.A. Southern, the antics of Bernard and Robert, played by longtime May River vets, J.T. Chinn and Rob Tillison respectively, will be accentuated as each of the three flight attendants—the American beautifully played by newcomer, Catie Mengel, along with two relatively new performers to the May River stage, Mary Lynn Finn who thrills as Gabriella, and Maggie Cunningham who delights as the passionate German attendant—come and go completely unaware of each other. The women create havoc for Bernard and Robert, as well as irascible housekeeper Berthe, played by May River Theatre newcomer, Barbara Fiscarel, as they enter and leave the flat by the many doors on the set.
“For the last show of the May River Theatre Season, we wanted to give our patrons something to laugh about as we celebrate the great talent who can put a show such as ‘Boeing Boeing’ together,” says D.A. Southern. “It is a physically demanding show and one that really stretches each actor. As it has been a while since we have had a pure comedy here at May River Theatre, this is a show that our audiences have definitely been asking for and it is a fantastic way to close out the May River Theatre season. The antics of the entire cast will definitely have you laughing out loud and it is undeniably an enjoyable night of theatre.”
Written by Randolph Stewart.