MuggleNet was present at opening night of The Boy Who Was Woody Allen, staring James Phelps (Fred Weasley). Read on for our review of the play, and be sure to listen to our interview with the star!
John O'Leary (played by James) is an 18 year old 6' 3" blond Catholic boy standing in line to meet to school careers officer. He has absolutely no idea what he would like to do. Being Catholic he is allowed at least one epiphany in his life and, luckily, his arrives now. He is going to be Woody Allen! There then follows a number of surreal episodes which include John/Woody having to convince his mother, who spends a lot of her day knitting crucifixes for her priest, to accept his new Jewish faith and persona; meeting a nihilist goth at a house of mourning and marrying her only to find out shortly after saying "I Do" that she is a lesbian; discovering therapy and developing a stand up comedy routine. As success and fame beckons and a second romance blossoms with a baker of phallic pattiserie, Woody realises that all is not as it seems when at a retro Annie Hall party he meets a second Woody Allen, an undercover agent for the C.I.A.
Anyone looking to broaden their awareness of the work and mind of film director and actor Woody Allen has a more than modest selection of documentaries and biographies to choose from. Film makers, critics and academics are regular seeking to impress upon us their knowledge of this notoriously private man and on this point, The Boy Who Was Woody Allen, is no different. However this production offers an original and alternative story of the iconic filmmaker, although one that is not entirely convincing.
The play is largely narrated by the titular character John O'Leary, a 6' 3" Catholic teen who, after an epiphany, informs his school career’s officer that his life ambition is to become Woody Allen. And this he does; after convincing his mother, marrying a lesbian goth and become a stand up comic. But as fame and success come his way, his muse may not be quite who he thought.
Pun heavy and reliant upon an audience with a decent awareness of Woody Allen’s filmography, the play has some entertaining moments but more often than not they fall short of genuine comedy. True absurd gems such as the moose at the party are overshadowed by jokes that are stretched far too thinly and the songs, despite being catching, feel largely tacked on last minute.
The cast generally do their best with the script and with direction that seems limited at best. James Phelps, of Potter fame, makes a convincing stage debut maintaining momentum, and the accent, through long sections of speech. The constant multi-rolling allows for cast members Carrie Marx and Fliss Russell to make their mark whilst others are left a little exposed by the rapid changes.
Overall the show makes for a mildly entertaining evening. Given the time to develop, The Boy Who was Woody Allen, certainly feels like a play to watch.