Broadway Features and Reviews
Boeing-Boeing Lands on Broadway
By Molly Kordares, Broadway Magazine
One thing is for sure: Boeing-Boeing's flight to Broadway hasn't been so smooth. The French comedy, by Marc Camoletti, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as France's most successful play. The English version thrived as well, running for seven years at the Apollo Theatre in the 1960s. It was the sort of adventure, said the London Times, that "never fails to please generation after generation" so long as the actors can pull it off.
And in London, they did. But when it came to Broadway in 1965, the play flopped, closing after 23 performances. The problem, wrote New York Times critic Howard Taubman, was "that it depends on a single joke that was not exactly new decades ago when A.H. Woods was the king of bedroom farces." So what was the joke? A bachelor juggles three fiances, all flight attendants from different airlines, who are unaware of each other. Ah, the playboy trying not to get caught: an old joke indeed. This, along with a slow plot and mediocre acting, caused Boeing-Boeing's early departure from New York forty years ago.
Of course, the play is back, scheduled to open on May 4th at the Longacre Theatre. And with the same itinerary as well: Boeing-Boeing has seen recent revivals in France and London, both well-received. But will it flop on Broadway again? Certainly the script, actors, direction and production will have changed. Plus, the U.S. production includes Mark Rylance, who starred in the recent London production and is credited with its success. However, the "old joke" remains. A man would rather enjoy three women than commit to one, even if it means sleepless nights and endless twists as Boeing airplanes become faster and the women arrive more often.
Old might be good this time around, though. Four long decades have passed between the writing of the play and its second attempt on Broadway, which cast the whole thing in a vintage, sepia-colored (if not rosy) light. Just look at the 1965 film version of the movie, starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. Perfectly-coiffed flight attendants don tight pencil skirts and cropped blazers. They're called "air hostesses", and are selected for their "beauty and charm." Tony Curtis' character runs around the airport freely, never having to worry about boarding passes or travel-sized liquids, and always with his shoes on. He doesn't deal with hour-long customer service calls to figure out arrival times; he simply checks a small book of timetables.
The skies aren't so friendly anymore, and Americans know it. If Boeing-Boeing can charm its way past a one-joke plot, and even throw in some new ones, perhaps this generation of theater-goers will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight-for once.
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