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I Once Met Sandy Wilson - Michael Theodorou

Blog | By Michael Theodorou | May 17, 2022

The school production of The Boy Friend, watched by Sandy Wilson

Michael Theodorou spent an evening with Sandy Wilson after inviting him to his school's production of "The Boy Friend"

It was 30th June 1998.

‘I’m sitting next to a legend,’ I said to myself as I drove Sandy Wilson (1924-2014) from his house in Somerset to Wells Cathedral School, where I taught.

We were rehearsing his play The Boy Friend (1953), prior to taking it up to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Sandy said, ‘Of course, some people get it wrong, you know, Mike, even after all these years. They call the show The Boyfriend when it should be The Boy Friend.

Mental note to self: as soon as we get to the school, make bloody sure the programme says The Boy Friend.

‘I’ve been very lucky, Mike,’ Sandy said, ‘because I’ve been able to live off that show all my life.’

Only a few weeks before, my wife had rung me up one evening at the school, when I was rehearsing, and said, more or less as a joke, ‘I’ve found Sandy Wilson’s phone number in Who’s Who if you’d like to give him a ring.’

‘Ha, ha! And what am I supposed to say to him?’

‘Tell him you’re doing the show and are taking it to Edinburgh.’

‘As if he’d be interested!’ I guffawed.

‘Oh, go on. He can only say bugger off – and I’m sure he wouldn’t.’

Short pause. ‘What’s the number?’ I tapped in the London code and number.

A voice said, ‘Hello.’

‘Oh, is that Sandy Wilson?’

‘Yes.’

Quick apologetic explanation for the reason for my call.

He didn’t say bugger off. The pleasant, friendly voice said, ‘Strangely enough, I have a small house in Somerset and I’m coming up in a few weeks’ time. Your production sounds very interesting and I’d love to meet you and the cast – but unfortunately I don’t drive. If you could pick me up from my house and drive me to the school, I’d be delighted to help.’

Gulp! Pause. ‘That would be very nice. I could drive you.’

That’s how, on a summer evening, 74-year-old Sandy Wilson was on the stage of a music school in Somerset, showing a cast of youngsters how to do the Charleston.

In his autobiography, I Could Be Happy, Sandy Wilson wrote about being invited by Noël Coward to play him the score of The Buccaneer:

‘His last words, even if they no longer apply, will remain with me for ever: “There are three good lyric-writers today,” he said, wagging an emphatic finger, “Cole [Porter], myself – and you.” I was overwhelmed.’

I was overwhelmed too on that day in 1998 when Sandy Wilson came to see a rehearsal of my production of The Boy Friend.