Boys in the Photograph, The

Book by Ben Elton. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Ben Elton. The Boys in the Photograph is a revised version of The Beautiful Game. The musical has had major professional productions in Canada (2009) and South Africa (2010), but has yet to appear on Broadway or in the West End.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

The Boys in the Photograph - South Africa

Carly Graeme, David Chevers and Neville Thomas as Mary, John and Father O'Donnell in the 2010 South African production

The Boys in the Photograph opens in Belfast, 1969 (OVERTURE). A group of mostly Catholic boys trains for the new football season, watched by their friends and families. All are united in their love for THE BEAUTIFUL GAME. Father O’Donnell, the team’s coach, arrives to talk to his players. In particular, he admonishes John – the team’s star striker – for spending too much time watching Mary Maguire and orders him to clean the kit as punishment. Practice is followed by a photo call for the team, a moment that is captured in time (THE BOYS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH). Alone in the changing room after the others have left, John dreams of becoming a professional footballer. Mary comes into the changing room and overhears John. She tells John that he is just deluding himself and that he will never amount to anything. Meanwhile, Thomas Malloy – one of the fervent Catholics in the team – intimidates Del, a Protestant, so that he will quit the team. Thomas and his cronies threaten to harm him if he should ever return (CLEAN THE KIT). Back in the locker room, Mary and John argue and – in spite of themselves and after a trip to the cinema – realise that they like one another after all (DON’T LIKE YOU).

The Boys in the Photograph - South Africa

Gemma Donnelly and Grant Almirall as Christine and Del in the 2010 South African production.

A few months later, Daniel is chased into the changing room by a few of his team mates. He missed a match because he was busy stealing a car radio. He offers to buy them all a drink to make up for it. John decides to break his promise to go to a protest march with Mary so that he can drink with his friends. After an argument with Mary, he leaves. Mary thinks about her love for Ireland in spite of the terrible things that are happening (GOD’S OWN COUNTRY). Her thoughts are echoed by a Protestant girl. John changes his mind and returns. They hear drums in the distance and realise that Protestant marchers are nearby (PROD’S OWN COUNTRY). Chaos ensues as a riot commences. Eventually, once everyone has disappeared, Christine and Del emerge from a broken down car where they have been making love during the riot. They discuss their disillusionment with one, arguing that there are no happy endings for those who are BORN IN BELFAST.

The Boys in the Photograph - South Africa

Tammi Meyer and Gareth Worth as Bernadette and Ginger in the 2010 South African production

As the season draws to a close, the team wins THE FINAL (A GAME OF TWO HALVES) and go off to celebrate (OFF TO THE PARTY / THE CRAIC). At the party, Del is threatened and then thrown out by Thomas and his friends. Bernadette and Ginger get together and dream of a world where people aren’t confronted by violence every day (LET US LOVE IN PEACE). However, on his way home from the party, Ginger is viciously attacked (THE MUGGING). The next day, Christine, Mary and Bernadette are talking about what happened at the party the previous evening. John, Thomas and Daniel arrive to tell them that Ginger is dead. Thomas wants to avenge his death, but Father O’Donnell and the others convince him that more violence is not the answer to this situation. Ginger’s funeral follows (LET US LOVE IN PEACE – REPRISE).

The Boys in the Photograph - South Africa

Neville Thomas as Father O' Donnell marries David Chevers and Carly Graeme as John and Mary in the 2010 South African production

Some time later, Mary and John are married (THE HAPPIEST DAY / ALL THE LOVE I HAVE). The wedding night comes complete with the usual jitters (DON’T LIKE YOU – REPRISE / THE FIRST TIME), but the couple affirm their love for one another (ALL THE LOVE I HAVE – REPRISE). Their happiness is soon shattered by a phone call. Thomas has joined the IRA and is on the run. He needs John’s help to get to safety. John argues with Mary about whether he should go, then leaves to help Thomas. The streets are like a WARZONE. Thomas explains his philosophy to John (I’D RATHER DIE ON MY FEET THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES), but John tells him he will never be involved in anything like this again. A few months later, John and Daniel have the opportunity to try out for the football team Everton. John and Mary are hopeful, as John has a good chance of being selected and this will allow them to move to England. Del and Christine, who have a baby, have decided to emigrate to America (GOD’S OWN COUNTRY – REPRISE / THE BOYS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH – REPRISE). Mary has another reason to be happy: she has discovered that she is pregnant although she has not yet found the right time to tell John. Their joy is short-lived when, instead of being selected for Everton, John is arrested for helping Thomas escape (THE SELECTION) and sent to an internment camp (JOHN IN PRISON / DEAD ZONE).

The Boys in the Photograph - South Africa

David Chevers as John in the 2010 South African production

Life in prison starts to change John and eventually even Mary struggles to get through to him (MARY’S VISIT). Mary has her baby, Sean, while John is imprisoned. One day, she is in the local laundry with Bernadette and Daniel, when a group of terrorists arrives. They charge Daniel with treason, accusing him of turning John in to the authorities. Mary realises that one of the terrorists is Thomas and is horrified when Thomas shoots Daniel in the knee, crippling him for life (IF THIS IS WHAT WE’RE FIGHTING FOR). When John is released (DEADZONE – REPRISE), he meets up with Thomas and relates his theory of how he landed in the internment camp. Thomas confirms that it was he who betrayed John and that Daniel was innocent, but says that he was doing this for the cause represented by the IRA (THIS WILL NEVER END). His cover blown, Thomas is shot by the IRA. John believes he cannot fit back into the normal world and sets off to join the IRA. He sees Mary in a park and gives her a present for his son, his old football shirt, and tells her that she will never see him again (ALL THE LOVE THAT I HAVE). Mary confronts him, pulling out the photograph of his old team. She tells him that his true self is his first victim as a killer for the IRA. He leaves and she considers how things have changed since she met John and how all of their lives have changed because of the war in Ireland (THE BOYS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH – REPRISE). John remembers who he is and returns to be with Mary and his son rather than joing the IRA and perpetuating the war.

Discussion

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