Theatre Mirror Reviews -"Thoroughly odern Millie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"Thoroughly Modern Millie"

A Review by Tony Annicone

Turtle Lane Playhouse's last show of their 31st season is "Thoroughly Modern Mille'' 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 when "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 Kristin Hughes captures the essence of New York in the 1920's with topnotch musical direction by Chris Holownia and choreographer Annita Brockney's inventive dance numbers will leave the audience cheering in the aisles at these very talented performers.

Director Kristin Hughes displays the exuberance and excitement of the Jazz Age with the breathtaking dances of that era. The marvelous art deco set is by Laura Schrader and the 125 lovely costumes are by Richard Itczak. Kristen 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, the Charleston, the shimmie, jazz, can-can and an hilarious type writer dance. Annita's choreography is topnotch. The voices of the cast blend well under Chris' direction and he conducts a splendid nine piece orchestra. Leading this talented cast is the triple threat performer, pretty blonde, Jackie Theoharis as Millie. She first enters with long hair, returning seconds later with a bob and a short modern skirt. Millie Dillmount is a lot like Sweet Charity, who looks for love in all the wrong places. This show proves Jackie is a triple threat when the audience leapt to their feet at curtain call for her. She shows off her lovely 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 the a relationship not wealth after she has a heartfelt discussion with Muzzy. This dynamite number is reminiscent of a Judy Garland song and is a snow stopper with Jackie's excellent rendition of it. Millie first 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" is another show stopper where Jackie leads the chorus in an energetic dance, changing into a modern woman during it. She shows her vocal range in this song as well as in the duet "I Turned the Corner" and in the pretty ballad "Jimmy". Jackie leads the chorus girls in a comic tap number called "Forget About the Boy" where the girls relate to Millie's plight by naming their boyfriends names during it as well as in a drunken song called "The Nutty Cracker Suite" which is based on the music of Tchaikovsky. They all get arrested during it. Brava a job very well done! And on top of all this, Jackie just turned 20 years old.

Tim McShea plays Jimmy Smith who Millie forces to help her after she gets mugged on her first day in New York. Jimmy 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. Tim's fantastic tenor voice soars in "I Turned the Corner" where he and Jackie do a soft shoe dance while on a window ledge and in the quartet version of "Falling in Love with Someone", a gorgeous ballad written by Richard Rodgers. He also displays his terrific voice and dancing ability in several numbers especially in "What Do I Need with Love?", a Gene Kelly inspired song which he sings in jail. Tim always does a marvelous job and this is one more feather in his cap.Abigail Clarke 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. Abigail shows off her dynamic voice in it and then dances up a storm with the chorus boys in "Long As I Am Here with You''. The harmony of the men and their dancing is topnotch, too. She is a hoot when she disguises herself as a young orphan while trying to catch the evil white slavery ringleader. Abigail also shows a tender side to Muzzy when she speaks of her late husband, counseling Millie. Kyle Carlson who is tall, suave and handsome plays Trevor Graydon, Millie's haughty, rich boss. I last reviewed Kyle as Barfee, the nerd in "The Spelling Bee" earlier this season. His powerful baritone voice is heard in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Falling in Love with Someone".Kyle's first number is "The Speed Test" where he tests Millie's typing skills. This number is an updated version of "Modern Major General" written by Arthur Sullivan. He is very funny as this stuffed shirt. The chorus types and tap dances during "The Speed Test" while the mean Miss Flannery, hilariously played by Olivia Buckley leads a tap dance in "Forget About the Boy". Trevor falls in love at first sight with Miss Dorothy. Gillian Gordon plays Miss Dorothy, the naive rich girl who wants to be poor. She wears a wig with banana curls. Gillian's lovely soprano voice is heard in her duets "How the Other Half Lives'' with Jackie as they tap dance to make the elevator go up in the old building and with Kyle in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" while doing a soft shoe ala Fred and Ginger.

Andrea Giangreco plays the evil Mrs. Meers. She is one of the biggest scene stealers in this show. Andrea is disguised as a Chinese landlady but is really an ex-con Daisy Crupler who was 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. Andrea's antics as this dragon lady are wild and over the top. She sings her solo called "You Don't Know" in her strong jazzy belting voice while doing a comic dance. Andrea 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 and their vaudeville type dance. There is a video screen which shows the lyrics to this song which is the Chinese version of "Mammy". The screen also shows the Chinese dialogue of the two brothers. Jason Dick plays Ching Ho who has a secret crush on Miss Dorothy and keeps trying to rescue her. David Gerrie plays his brother, Bun Foo. They are hidden gems in this high energy show. Their laugh out loud moments occur with 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 on their singing and dancing prowess. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the Roaring Twenties, be sure to catch "Thoroughly Modern Millie" before they dance their way out of town. You will thoroughly enjoy this show. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" (8 June - 1 July)
@ 283 Melrose Street, AUBURNDALE, MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide