Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Thoroughly Moern Millie"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Oliver Ames High School's spring show is "Thoroughly Modern Millie" which won six Tony Awards as Best Musical in 2002 and is based on the 1967 movie with the same name. The show takes place back at the height of the Jazz Age in 1922 and is the story of Millie Dillmount, a small town girl from Kansas who follows her dreams to New York where she wants to marry a rich man and decides love will have nothing to do with it. It was one "moderns" were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and rewriting the rules of love. However she finds romance, adventure and above all fun, a place with frisky flappers, dashing leading men and a villainous dragon-lady that audiences will love to hate. Director Charlene Dalrymple captures the essence of New York in the 1920's with topnotch musical direction by Jeffrey Benson and choreographer Pam Sheiber's awesome and inventive dance numbers will leave the audience cheering in the aisles at these very talented high school students, winning them a well deserved standing ovation.

Director Charlene Dalrymple displays the exuberance and excitement of the Jazz Age with the breathtaking dances of that era. The marvelous set is by Karl Pelletier with scenic painting by Gary Poholek and lovely 1920's costumes are by Stephanie Wooley. The Broadway style lighting is by Justin Freeman and Christopher Merriman. Charlene gives her performers clever shtick to perform in their comic moments. This show is a choreographer's dream come true with all styles of dances including tap numbers, Charleston, the shimmie, jazz numbers, tango, can-can and an hilarious type writer dance. Pam's choreography is superb and this show is no exception to that rule. The voices of the cast blend well under Jeffrey's direction and he conducts a topnotch orchestra. Leading this enormous cast is high school junior, the multitalented Livvy Marcus who I first reviewed back in 2003 as "Annie" at the Orpheum Theatre, stars as Millie. She first enters with long hair, returning seconds later with a bob and a short modern skirt. Millie Dillmount is like Sweet Charity, who looks for love in all the wrong places. Livvy has always been a triple threat performer from an early age and this show proves this adage once again where the audience leaps to their feet at curtain call. She shows off her lovely sing voice in the ballads as well as a strong belting voice in the best number in the show called "Gimme, Gimme". Millie finally realizes that love is the most important ingredient in a relationship not wealth after she has a heartfelt discussion with Muzzy. This socko number is reminiscent of a Judy Garland song and it stops the show with her expert rendition of it. Livvy as Millie enters as a naive, small town Kansas girl who finds herself in NYC, in the opening number, "Not For the Life of Me'' where she proclaims she will never go home again, "Thoroughly Modern Millie'' stops the show where she leads the chorus in an energetic dance, changing into a modern woman during it. Livvy shows of her vocal range in this song as well as in the duet "I Turned the Corner" and sings the pretty ballad "Jimmy". She leads the chorus in a comic tap number called "Forget About the Boy" where the girls relate to Millie's predicament by naming their boyfriends name in the song and in a wild drunken song called "The Nutty Cracker Suite" based on the music of Tchaikovsky where they all get arrested. Brava on job well done!

Jared Wise plays Jimmy Smith who Millie forces to help her on her first day in New York after she gets mugged. He hides a secret which the audience learns about later in the show. Jimmy realizes he must give up his playboy ways after falling in love with Millie. His beautiful tenor voice soars in "I Turned the Corner" with he and Livvy doing a soft shoe dance while on a window ledge, the quartet version of "Falling in Love with Someone", a gorgeous ballad written by Richard Rodgers. He also displays his dancing ability in several numbers and also does "What Do I Need with Love" which is a Gene Kelly inspired song which he sings after they are arrested in jail. Amanda Urquhart plays the wealthy, Muzzy Van Hossmere, Toast of New York. Her first song is a bluesy number called "Only in New York" where she is hosting a drunken party. She shows off her strong singing voice in that song while dancing up a storm with the chorus boys in "Long As I Am Here with You" and the boys sound awesome in this number, too. Amanda is a hoot when she disguises herself as a young orphan trying to catch the evil white slavery ringleader. Harrison Phelps who is tall, blond and handsome plays Trevor Graydon, Millie's haughty, rich boss. Trevor tests her typing skills in "The Speed Test'' which is an updated version of "Modern Major General" written by Arthur Sullivan. The chorus types and tap dances while the mean Miss Flannery, hilariously played by Keara Benton who punishes the slacker typists. Harrison's strong baritone voice is also heard in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Falling in Love with Someone". He is very funny as this stuffed shirt who falls in love at first sight with Miss Dorothy. Denali Bennett plays Miss Dorothy, the naive rich girl who wants to be poor. She wears a blonde wig with banana curls and her lovely soprano voice soars in her duets "How the Other Half Lives" with Livvy as they tap dance to make the elevator go up in the old building and with Harrison in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Love" with while doing a soft shoe with Fred and Ginger movements. She gets to show off her dancing ability in the chorus numbers but it is her acting as Miss Dorothy, the California actress that will leave you laughing all night long.

Morgan Capodilupe plays the evil Mrs. Meers while wearing a black wig with rouged cheeks. She is one of the biggest scene stealers in this show while she is disguised as a Chinese landlady who is really an ex-con Daisy Crupler who was also an actress in her youth. Her Chinese accent is hilarious as is her Brooklyn accent when she is on the phone with Buddha and she is butterfly. Morgan's antics as this dragon lady are wild and over the top. She sings her solo, "You Don't Know" with her belting voice as Mrs Meers reveals her true identity to the audience as she sings and dances that she is the best actress in the world. Her second number "Muquin" is done with her two Chinese sidekicks and it stops the show with its hilarity. There is a video screen that shows the lyrics to this song which is the Chinese version of "Mammy". The screen also shows the Chinese dialogue of the two brothers. Max Cerci plays Ching Ho who has a secret crush on Miss Dorothy, and keeps trying to rescue her. Brandon Griffin plays his brother, Bun Foo. They are two hidden gems in this high energy show. Their laugh out loud moments are given by their acting, singing and dancing in Chinese. They also sing a verse of "Not for the Life of Me". Kudos to the entire cast and crew of this show on their singing and dancing prowess. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the 1920's be sure to catch "Thoroughly Modern Millie" before they dance their way out of town. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" (16 - 18 March)
Oliver Ames High School
@ 100 Lothrop Street, NORTH EASTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide