Theatre Mirror Reviews - "THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



The second summer show of Reagle Music Theatre's 48th summer season is "Thoroughly Modern Millie" which won six Tony Awards including best musical in 2002. The musical takes place in 1922 and is the story of Millie Dillmount, a small town girl from Kansas who follows her dreams to New York City, where she finds romance, adventure and above all fun. This musical displays the excitement and exuberance of the Jazz Age with its fantastic 1920's music and breathtaking dances of that era. Director Cynthia Thole captures the essence of New York in the 1920's with a multitalented 29 member cast who can sing dance and act their hearts out by recreating the mood of America over 90 years ago while musical director Dan Rodriguez and his orchestra do a superb job with the 1920's music and Susan Chebookgian's dances stop the show with the prowess of this hardworking cast. The harmonic sounds of this cast and their dancing expertise add the finishing touches to a marvelous topnotch production that will have you cheering in the aisles for Millie to get the man of her dreams.

Cynthia blocks this huge musical beautifully, making sure the whole audience observes her talented cast in all the scenes. She always brings the best out in her performers and this show is one more feather in her cap. Dan's musical direction of the vocalist and orchestra is once again superb and the conducting by Jeff Leonard is splendid, too. The orchestra is excellent from the overture to the closing notes of the evening and especially impressive is the brass section who really sells the jazz music of the 1920's. Susan's dance numbers are exquisite and their execution is dynamite, too. The different dance styles include the Charleston, tap dance, jazz as well as athletic Gene Kelly movement and a type writing dance, too. The cast performs all these dances in perfect unison.The scenes flow effortlessly from one scene to the next with the set design by Richard Schreiber. The multitude of gorgeous flapper costumes are by Martin Pakledinaz. Cynthia and her entire crew keep the production values at a high standard so local audiences can enjoy Broadway style shows right in their own backyard.

Gabrielle Carruba, a gorgeous brunette, plays the title role of Millie Dillmount. which is a lot like Charity Valentine who always looks for love in the wrong places. She is a multitalented actress who very richly deserves the standing ovation awarded to her at the end of the show. Gabrielle displays her beautiful singing voice in the ballads as well as her belting voice in one of the best numbers called "Gimme, Gimme" where she finally realizes love is the most important ingredient in a relationship. This song is reminiscent of a Judy Garland number. Millie's modern philosophy in 1922 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. Gabrielle's songs include "Not for the Life of Me" where she vows never to return to Kansas, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" where she leads the chorus in a song and dance as she quickly turns 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 displays her vocal range in this number as well as in the duet "I Turned the Corner" with Jimmy. Gabrielle leads the chorus girls in a comic tap dance number called "Forget About the Boy" and a wild drunken dance called "The Nutty Cracker Suite" based on the music of Tchaikovsky. She shows her versatility in this role while running the gamut of emotions and her pratfall when she tries to impress Trevor is hilarious. Gabrielle is a dynamite actress and she is still only a junior at Boston Conservatory. Brava!

Andrew Tighe plays Jimmy Smith, who Millie forces to help her after being mugged on her first day in NYC. He hides a secret which the audience learns about later 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 in the quartet version of "Falling in Love with Someone" and "What Do I Need With Love?" Andrew is very impressive in this role. Robyn Payne 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 the second one is a dance number with the chorus boys called "Long As I'm Here with You." Her powerhouse voice shines in these songs and she also dances up a storm, too. Robyn is a hoot when she dresses up as Little Bo Peep style outfit when she pretends to be an orphan as well as tugging your heartstrings when she describes her relationship with her late husband, finally convincing Millie that love is the important ingredient in a relationship. I last reviewed Robyn as Kala in "Tarzan" at NSMT in the summer of 2011. Tall and debonair Mark Linehan plays Millie's very handsome and rich boss, Trevor Graydon. He tests her typing skills in "The Speed Test" which is an updated version of "The Modern Major General" written by Sir Arthur Sullivan. The chorus does a tap dance with type writers during it which is hilarious and stops the show. Mark's incredibly strong baritone voice is also heard in "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Falling in Love with Someone" written by Richard Rodgers. Mark is very funny as this pompous stuffed shirt who finally gets taught a lesson in this show. He also does a comic tango to the love song with his true love, Miss Dorothy played by the gorgeous blonde, Caitlin Oenbrink. She is a hoot as the rich, naive girl who wants to be poor. Caitlin's glorious soprano voice soars in her duets "How the Other Half Loves" with Millie and in the love songs with Trevor. She also displays her dancing ability in the chorus numbers but it is her acting as this dippy young California actress that will keep you laughing all night long. They are topnotch performers that the audience would love seeing over and over again.

One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Maryann Zschau as Mrs. Meers, a disguised Chinese landlady who is really an ex-con and white slave trader called Daisy Crumpler. Her Chinese accent is hilarious and her antics as this dragon lady are wild and over the top. Her first number is "They Don't Know" where she reveals her true identity to the audience but Mrs. Meers believes she is the best actress in the world. Her second number stops the show with hilarity. She sings it with her two sidekicks where they do a soft shoe to it and it is called "Muquin." There is a video screen which translates the Chinese lyrics to the song "Mammy" where she threatens revenge on the mother of her two cohorts. The Chinese dialogue is also translated on this same screen. Maryann is marvelous as is her character acting. In reality, she is a very pretty brunette. Her two comic cohorts in this high energy show are Kai Chao as Ching who secretly has a crush on Miss Dorothy and Eiji Miura as his brother, Bun Foo. Their acting, singing and dancing in Chinese are laugh out loud moments that are well done. Another comic character is Miss Flannery excellently played by Molly Keane-Dreyer. She wears a red wig and is Trevor's office manager. She leads the girls in a tap dance in Act 2 and her comic lines roll off her tongue with ease, earning her many laughs and thunderous applause. 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 "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at Reagle Music Theatre, before the cast dances its way out of town. Run do not walk to the box office. Tell them Tony sent you!

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (7 to 17 July)
Reagle Music Theatre,617 Lexington Ave, Waltham, MA
1(617)891-5600 or www.reaglemusictheatre.com




THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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