If you like the 1960s-based TV show “Mad Men” — and you also like comedy — you probably would like Arena Dinner Theatre's production of “Boeing-Boeing,” which opens Friday.
“If 'Mad Men' were a farce, it would be this play,” said Christopher J. Murphy, who is directing the show. “If Don Draper ever cracked a smile, he would be the lead in this play.”
Set in the 1960s in Paris, the play revolves around Bernard, played by Todd Frymier, a bachelor with three fiancees, all stewardesses. One is American, one is German and one is Italian. With the help of his housekeeper and his best friend, Robert, played by Jim Nelson, he's able to juggle all three of them without them finding out about each other until Boeing invents a faster jet, throwing off their schedules.
“Of course, they all show up at his apartment at exactly the same time,” Murphy said.
If people are looking for a show that's lighthearted and funny, this is one to see.
“I love that it is just pure, silly fun — that for us as artists is a chance to just come into the theater every night and leave our daily troubles at the doorstep and just have a good time,” Murphy said.
He hopes the show has the same effect on the audience.
The play was written in the 1960s and was a big hit in London, but for it flopped on Broadway, where Murphy said audiences are “a little snobbish about European farces.”
It was made into a movie in 1965 starring Tony Curtis as Bernard and Jerry Lewis as Robert.
In 2008, “Boeing-Boeing,” which was written by French playwright Marc Camoletti, enjoyed a successful revival in London and then on Broadway. When Arena wanted to do the show a few years ago, it couldn't get the rights to it, so it settled on a sequel, “Don't Dress for Dinner,” which also featured Bernard and Robert.
Nelson also played Robert in that show, and several of the women in “Don't Dress for Dinner” are also in “Boeing-Boeing,” although in different roles.
“It's been like a little family reunion,” Murphy said.
The play isn't just funny and silly, it's also good.
“There are lots of silly plays out there that aren't terribly good,” Murphy said. “This play has great bones to it. It's just a really well-written piece of theater.”
The set and the '60s costumes also are a fun aspect of the show. Murphy said the set is almost completely white, but the stewardesses each wear bright uniforms, which really pop against the white background.
“It's a very, very '60s mod look,” he said.