Episode 107: Sandy Wilson’s THE BOYFRIEND, London Theatre and Gay Culture

In This Episode

My guest this week is author Deborah Phillips whose new book is titled:


Sandy Wilson’s The Boyfriend — for which he wrote the book, music, & lyrics — is one of the most successful British musicals of all time. It emerged in 1952 out of London’s secretive but vibrant gay theatrical subculture, at a time when you could be sent to prison for being homosexual.  By the following year both The Boyfriend and Sandy Wilson were the toast of London’s West End, and created nearly as much excitement as Queen Elizabeth’s coronation that same year. That original West End production ran for five years.  Meanwhile, a hit American version of The Boyfriend opened on Broadway in 1954 and made a star out of Julie Andrews. The show was revived on Broadway in 1970 and made a star of Sandy Duncan, and two years later an ill-conceived film version was released, starring Twiggy and Tommy Tune and directed by Ken Russell.

Despite all of this, prior to this book, very little has been written about Sandy Wilson. Deborah Phillips, who is Professor of Literature and Cultural History at the University of Brighton, is the first researcher to delve into Wilson’s extensive archives out of which she has created an captivating portrait of Wilson as a both a key figure in post-war British theatre and the era’s gay culture.

This book and interview introduced me to a number of fascinating subjects I had never encountered before including the hilarious BBC radio series, Round The Horne, that inspired the book’s title; the history of London’s Players Theatre; and the secret gay language, Polari.

Exploring all that sent me into several amazing internet rabbit holes and I will be posting articles and video clips that I found there in the Broadway Nation FaceBook Group.

This episode is made possible in part through the generous support of Broadway Nation Patron Club members Anne Welsh, Chris Moad, and Bob Braun.

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This episode is made possible in part through the generous support of Broadway Nation Patron Club members Anne Welsh, Chris Moad, and Bob Braun.

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