If you've been to the Turtle Lane Playhouse; if you haven't been there lately; I urge you to go ... soon. But be prepared to cry.
I don't mean because of the show! It's "Thorughly Modern Millie" --- and it's just as bright and bouncy and belt-it-out brash as the one hundred and thirty-eight musicals (that's 138!) that have graced the Turtle Lane stage in the thirty-three years it has been open.
"Millie" calls herself thoroughly modern because the show takes place in the '20s --- when rag-time was becoming jazz, when the rhythm of tap-dance infected everyone, and when marrying the boss for money and not for love may have been branded "gold-digging" but wasn't everybody doing it?
The original movie was concocted by director/producer Blake Edwards for his wife Julie Andrews long after movie musicals became passe. I thought I was one of the only eight people who saw it, but everyone I've said that to replies "Oh I loved that movie!" so maybe it's 'cult-classic' enough to have a bubbly second-life on the stage.
It's the sort of show where the elevator won't work unless the passengers tap-dance; where the hero edges his way to his lady's window on a 33rd-floor ledge and they do a dance On That Ledge; where typing-desks become a moving chorus-line and toe-taps imitate typing.
I won't bother with the plot because no one else does much, but though I'd seen the stage-version a couple times before, Turtle Lane's ebullient young cast and director Kristin Hughes dusted it off so that it was full of surprises: like a typing-test done as a quote from a Gilbert & Sullivan patter-song; like a besotted swain breaking into "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" to drown his sorrows; like a deliciously nefarious oriental white-slave fiend breaking from Mandarin to Brooklynese when she's alone --- and supertitles when the singing slavers remember their "Mammy!"
Sure, Millie's silly, but in Richard Itczak's up-to-the-knee hemlines the Turtle-Lane-magic and the young "gypsies" in the Turtle Lane Bar make it all come alive.
For me that Turtle Lane Bar is a holy place; it's walls have been soaked in joy and laughter and tears and love for thirty-three years. This is where kids fresh out of the Boston Conservatory cut their teeth in front of real, live audiences; where people who didn't want to split for The Apple could still get gigs and raise a family on the side; where everyone had audition-info and backstage horror-tales to exchange and you knew how good you were because fat old men with canes in their hands told you so.
So, if you love the theater at all, go to Turtle Lane, see the show, and drink in the atmosphere. And when you do, be sure to tell the bar-maid how much you loved the choreography --- because She Did It! Annita Brockway has only been at Turtle Lane for 24 years now, but she puts a manhattan in my hand every time I enter the place, and ambience is her middle-name.
But --- those who have tears, prepare to shed them now --- go soon. Someone on the Turtle Lane Board of Directors has decided this always shoestring money-losing crap-shoot of a place is not worth the effort of keeping the doors open. The building may be sold --- there are rumors a college or two might buy it --- but souls are really non-negotiable, and I suspect that if Bopsey Mitton sells the Playhouse most of its soul will go with the deed.
The 31st Anniversary Season isn't over; and a couple of other closing-nights have been scheduled. But, sometime soon, drop by the Playhouse, see the show, order yourself a manhattan for me, and cry.
( a k a larry stark)