Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Millie" Will Make You Smile

Thoroughly Modern Millie -- Goodspeed Musicals -- Thru July 2

Taylor Quick and cast. All photos by Diane Sobolewski

Thoroughly Modern Millie, which recently opened at the Goodpseed Opera House, is like a three-inch cupcake with six inches of icing piled atop. If you like icing, well then (to mix a metaphor), this is your cup of tea.

Based on the 1967 film of the same name, which starred Julie Andrews (which was based on the 1956 British musical Chrysanthemum), Millie tells the story of Millie Dillmount (the appealing Taylor Quick), who arrives in the Big Apple circa 1922 determined to be a “new woman,” part of which entails marrying for money, preferably to her boss (once she finds a job). Beneath all the frothy folderol of the show, with a book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlon, music by Jeannie Tesori and lyrics by Scanlon, it’s basically a girl-meets-boy-(cute)-girl-loses-boy-girl-wins-boy story with some white slavery thrown in for good measure.

Since no one above the age of three can be in doubt as to the fate of Millie and Jimmy Smith (Dan DeLuca), the appeal of the show is its staging and the musical numbers, and director and choreographer Denis Jones delivers, as does the talented cast. From the opening number, which finds the naïve Millie arriving from Salinas, Kansas, to be transformed into a “thoroughly modern” flapper, there’s energy abounding. Since the story line is basically banal, you might find yourself zoning out a bit as the plot unfolds, thinking – “Okay, okay, let’s get to the next number.” Fortunately, the “next number” comes up quickly, and some of them are real show stoppers.

Highlights include “The Speed Test,” a witty, Gilbert and Sullivan take-off that has Millie’s boss, Trevor Graydon III (Edward Watts) give her a test in dictation that she passes with aplomb. The second act opens with “Forget About the Boy,” which has the secretaries at Sincere Trust, where Millie works, do a “wash that man outta my hair” number that ends with them leaving their typewriters to tap dance their determination to be done with love.
Samantha Sturm, Taylor Quick and Edward Watts
Then there’s the very funny “Muquin,” in which the proprietress of the Hotel Priscilla, the evil Mrs. Meers (Loretta Ables Sayre), and her two henchmen, Ching Ho (James Seol) and Bun Foo (Christopher Shin), do a Chinese version of “Mammy.” Equally entertaining is the tongue-in-cheek “I’m Falling in Love with Someone,” a duet between Graydon and Millie’s friend, Miss Dorothy (the beguiling Samantha Sturm) evoking the most cloying moments in many of the Nelson Eddy/Jeannette McDonald films. Finally, there’s the café number, “Long as I’m Here With You,” in which Jazz Age chanteuse Muzzy (Ramona Keller) evokes the spirit of the many black female singers who captivated lost generation audiences.

Taylor Quick
Frothy and weightless (but not witless), Millie succeeds simply by being itself with no “great theater” pretensions or deep-meaning determinations. You either buy it or you don’t, and if you do much of the credit will go to Quick, who can be a belter when she needs to be and is a lithe and lively dancer, but she also has a nice comedic sense that extends to expressive body language. Credit also to Watts, who knows how to go over the top with restraint (if that’s not a contradiction), with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

As can be expected from Goodspeed Musicals, the set, in this case by Paul Tate dePoo III, is amazingly functional, especially given the venue’s limited wing space and little or no fly space. Anyone familiar with the show might wonder how the elevator scenes (the lift must travel up and down 12 floors) might be handled. Well, lighting designer Rob Denton had the answer. Costumes by Gregory Gale are spot-on and the entire cast, compliments of casting directors Stewart/Whitley and Paul Hardt, is obviously committed to making sure that the audience has a good time. In all, Thoroughly Modern Millie won’t send you home pondering the meaning of life, but it will send you home with a smile on your face.

The show runs through July 2. For tickets or more information call 860.873.8668 or visit:  

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