Bill Solly and Donald Ward’s musical romantic comedy “Boy Meets Boy” premiered off-Broadway in 1975. It’s a sweet and charming old-school musical with a premise – in an alternate 1930s London, gay marriage is so normalized, it’s not even remarked upon – that was daringly ahead of its time.
The musical pairs a reclusive English lord who left his socialite groom at the altar with an American journalist sent to cover the scandal of King Edward’s abdication and engagement to the divorcée Wallis Simpson.
Pandora Productions, Louisville’s LGBT theater company, opens its new season with “Boy Meets Boy” Thursday. It runs through September 22 in the Henry Clay Theatre on Third Street.
Pandora’s artistic director Michael Drury says despite the show’s ahead-of-its-time storyline, “Boy Meets Boy” is based on traditional romantic comedy tropes like mistaken identity. And, set in the posh hotels and sumptuous backstage dressing rooms of 1936 London and Paris, it’s also steeped in an elegant nostalgia.
“It’s one of my favorite periods for art and architecture, the Art Deco period,” says Drury, who also directs. “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were making movies, and [the show] really has that flavor to it.”
The show even has an Astaire/Rogers-informed dance duet, but with two Freds.
“Those movies that we grew up with, watching that heterosexual couple dancing beautifully on screen, and now we have two boys doing the very same thing on stage, it makes me emotional every time I watch it,” says Drury.
“Boy Meets Boy” is a fitting launch to a marriage equality-themed season, and given Pandora’s mission to produce theater that speaks to the LGBT community, that theme is certainly timely. But Drury says he didn’t actively plan the theme before selecting the season’s plays.
“It occurred to me that a lot of the pieces I was looking at had relationships at the forefront, and some were dealing with marriage,” says Drury. “It just kind of fell into place that way; it wasn’t like I was searching for it. It actually found me, in a way.”
The season also includes Kentucky author Silas House’s play “This Is My Heart For You,” about the complex religious and cultural factors at play in the struggle for equality in a small Appalachian town, which opens in the Slant Culture Theatre Festival in November and will play again in January. The multi-author “Standing on Ceremony” anthology of marriage equality-themed monologues and scenes opens November 14.
“Breakup Notebook,” a musical comedy about a recently-dumped lesbian who has to wade back into the dating pool, opens in March. And May will bring what looks at first glance like the wild card of the season (but turns out to be a subversive commentary on the so-called “gay agenda”), Buddy Thomas and Kevin Elliot’s sci-fi fantasy “Devil Boys From Beyond.”
The season will close in June with the Stephen Sondheim musical revue “Marry Me a Little,” which will feature a gay couple and a lesbian couple. Pandora is only the second theater company in the country to get permission to stage the show this way since it opened in 1980.
“We’ll give it a gay and lesbian flair just by virtue of having two guys singing the songs instead of a girl and a guy, which is how it’s normally done,” says Drury. “It was a lot easier to get permission to do it that way than I thought it would be.”