by Mark G. Auerbach
I’d been waiting all winter to head to Goodspeed to see Thoroughly Modern Millie, because I loved the film, loved Angela Lansbury’s rendition of the title song on the Oscars that year, and found the Broadway production to be an evening of fun. I’ve been even more ramped up since Goodspeed announced that Denis Jones would stage the musical. His choreography for Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn at Goodspeed turned that musical into one of my all-time favorites, and he just got a Tony Award nomination for that musical, when Goodspeed’s production went to New York last fall.
It’s 1922 in New York City, and small town girl Millie Dillmont has arrived along with others in the Big Apple to reinvent themselves, make her name, find a beau, and live happily ever after for now in the fast lane. She’s not much different than Peggy Sawyer, Miss Allentown, in 42nd Street, or another hundred people who got off of the train in Company, or a line of singers and dancers hoping to get their chance on A Chorus Line. She and her friends sing and dance through a myriad of adventures. They find jobs. They find beaus. They shimmer in the limelight one finds only in New York. They’re thwarted along the way. Scanlon’s and Morris’ script is light, and Tesori’s music, which supplements some of the music from the movie, is primed to make you want to Charleston and tap along with the cast.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on a 1967 film which starred Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Channing, and Beatrice Lillie. Its current creators revised the musical for the stage, added new music, and, after a run at LaJolla Playhouse in California, became the big Broadway hit of 2002. Sutton Foster played Millie in a performance that launched her to stardom.
The stars of this Goodspeed production are director/choreographer Denis Jones, who gives the show its carefree euphoria and snap; music director and orchestrator Michael O’Flaherty and Dan DeLange, who give the score its sparks, and set designer Paul Tate dePoo III, who fills the Goodspeed stage with various tableaus of The Big Apple. Gregory Gale’s costumes capture the razzle dazzle of the flapper era, and Rob Denton’s lighting designs are great. I think that Jay Hilton’s sound design was solid, although it was a little loud in places.
Taylor Quick was a charming Millie, in great voice for the second act 11 o’clock number “Gimme Gimme”. She’s surrounded by great character acting–Edward Watts’ matinee idol performance as Trevor Graydon, Millie’s boss; Loretta Ables Sayres’ very funny portrayal of a villanous hotel clerk; Dan DeLuca’s boy-next-door Jimmy, and Ramona Keller’s society chanteuse Muzzy.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a fun evening. With the world news so depressing these days, it’s a perfect diversion.
Goodspeed Musicals presents Thoroughly Modern Millie. Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlon. New music by Jeanine Tesori. New lyrics by Dick Scanlon. Original story an screenplay by Richard Morris. Directed and Choreographed by Denis Jones. Musical direction by Michael O’Flaherty. Scenic design by Paul Tate dePoo III. Costume design by Gregory Gale. Lighting design by Rob Denton. Sound design by Jay Hilton. Orchestrations by Dan DeLange. Through July 2..Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT. For tickets: 860-873-8668 or www.goodspeed.org.
Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.