The first show of North Shore Music Theatre's 50th season is "Thoroughly Modern Millie" which won six Tony Awards including Best Musical of 2002. The show takes place in 1922 and is the story of a small-town girl from Kansas who follows her dreams to New York city, where she finds romance, adventure and above all fun. This show displays the excitement and exuberance of the Jazz Age with its fantastic 1920's music and breathtaking dances of that era. Director/choreographer Barry Ivan captures the essence of New York in the 1920's with a multitalented 23 member cast who can sing, dance and act their hearts out by recreating the mood of America over 80 years ago while musical director, Dale Rieling and his orchestra do a superb job with the 1920's music. The harmonic sounds of the cast and their dancing expertise, give the finishing touches to a splendid topnotch production that will leave you humming the tunes on your way home. Bravo on a job very well done as well as being the first regional theater in the country to produce "Thoroughly Modern Millie".
Barry blocks the show very well, making sure the whole audience gets a chance to observe the actors at NSMT's theatre in the round stage. His dance numbers are exquisite and their execution is perfection in motion. The different styles include the Charleston, tap dance, jazz as well as an athletic type of Gene Kelly movement and some typewriter dancing, too. Dale's orchestra is excellent from the overture through the closing notes of the evening especially outstanding is the brass section who really sells the jazzy 1920's score. The scenes flow effortlessly from one to the other with the scenic design of Russell Parkman. The multitude of gorgeous flapper costumes are by Vincent Scassellati who cleverly keeps Millie in the brightest outfits to make her standout while the lighting design by Jack Mehler sets the mood with sublime colors especially the orange gels which reflect this earlier time period wonderfully. Barry and his entire crew keep the production values at a high standard so local audiences can enjoy Broadway shows in their own backyard and not have to travel to New York or Boston to see them.
Milena Govich, a gorgeous brunette, plays the title role of Millie Dillmount which is like Sweet Charity who looks for love in the wrong places. She is a multitalented young actress who very richly deserves the standing ovation awarded her at the close of the show. Milena gets to show off her beautiful singing voice in ballads as well as her belting voice in the best song of the show called "Gimme, Gimme" where she finally realizes love is the most important ingredient in a relationship. This number reminds you of a Judy Garland song. Millie's modern philosophy is that a woman chooses the man she wants to marry and that's that, showing her naivete as a small town girl in the big city. Milena's songs include "Not For the Life of Me" about her never going back home, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" where she leads the chorus as she swiftly changes into a flapper, complete with short skirt and bobbed hair and the beautiful ballad,"Jimmy" where she realizes the man she has been pursuing is the wrong man for her. She gets to show off her range in this song as well as in the duet, "I Turned the Corner". Milena also leads the chorus girls in a comic tap dance number called "Forget About the Boy" and a wild drunken dance song called "The Nuttycracker Suite" based on the music of Tchaikovsky. She shows her versatility as an actress in this role after playing the seductive vamp, Carla in "Nine" last season. Brava.
Ryan Silverman plays Jimmy Smith who Millie forces to help her on her first day in NYC after she gets mugged. He hides a secret which the audience learns about later in the show after he realizes he must give up his playboy ways after falling in love with Millie. His glorious tenor voice soars in "I Turned the Corner" and the quartet version of "I'm Falling in Love with Someone" while he displays his dancing ability in the Gene Kelly prison style dance song called "What Do I Need with Love?". This latter number is very impressive as Ryan dances in and out of jail while climbing up and down the prison bars. Terry Burrell plays the extremely wealthy, Muzzy Van Hossmere, the toast of New York. Her first song is a bluesy number called "Only in New York" while her second song is a dance number with four chorus boys called "Long a I'm Here with You" but Terry is a hoot when she is disguised in a Bo Peep style outfit pretending to be a long lost orphan. Richard Roland plays Millie's very handsome and rich boss, Trevor Graydon. He tests her skills in "The Speed Test" which is an updated version of "Modern Major General" written by Arthur Sullivan. (The chorus girls do a dance number with their typewriters in this scene which is hilarious.) His strong baritone voice is also used in the "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" and "I'm Falling in Love with Someone". Richard is very funny as this stuffed shirt, pompous man who finally gets taught a lesson in this show. He gets to do a very funny tiptoe type dance to the love song with his true love Miss Dorothy played by Amanda Serkasevich. She is a hoot as the rich, naive girl who wants to be poor. Amanda's glorious soprano voice soars in her duets "How the Other Half Lives" with Millie and the love song with Trevor. She also gets to show off her dancing ability in the chorus numbers but it her acting as the dippy young California actress that will keep you laughing at her all night long which is quite a change from her more serious role as Claudia in "Nine". Topnotch performers who the audience would love to see over and over again.
One of the biggest scene stealers is Beth McVey as Mrs. Meers, a disguised Chinese landlady who is really an excon, white slave trader. Her Chinese accent is hilarious and her antics as the dragon lady are wild and over the top. Her first song, "They Don't Know" reveals her true identity to the audience but her character believes she is the best actress in world. Her second number is "Muquin" done with her two Chinese sidekicks. There is a video screen which translates these lyrics "Mammy" as well as all the Chinese dialogue, too. Beth is splendid as is her comic character acting. David Rhee as Ching Ho who has a secret crush on Miss Dorothy and Telly Leung as his brother, Bun Foo are also two comic gems in this high energy show. Their acting, singing and dancing in Chinese are laugh out loud moments. Another wonderful character in the show is Miss Flannery played by Becky Barta. She wears a huge red beehive hairdo and is Trevor's office manager. She leads the girls in a tapdance in act 2 and her comic lines roll off her tongue with ease, earning her applause after one of her exits. Kudos to the entire cast and crew who make this a production to be very proud of. So for a trip back to the carefree and wild days of the Roaring Twenties, be sure to catch NSMT's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in Beverly, MA before time runs out.