Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Thoroughly Modern Millie"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Thoroughly Modern Millie"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Community Players third production of their 89th season 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 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 audiences will love to hate. This show displays the excitement and exuberance of the Jazz Age with its fantastic music and breathtaking dances of that era. With a wonderful New York set designed by Brian Mulvey with master carpenter Victor Turenne and art work by John Ricci and lovely costumes of that era by Pam Jackson. Greg Geer captures the essence of New York in the 1920's with excellent music and choral direction by Ron Procopio and choreographer Tim Reid's inventive dance numbers leaving the audience cheering these multitalented performers from start to finish, winning them a standing ovation at the close of the show.

Greg has the cast entering thr set from all entrance points with 25 scene changes and they start off the show with an energetic Charleston number. He gives his performers excellent shtick to do with their comic moments. Greg also does an excellent job with his direction and this show is no exception. The show is a choreographer's dream come true with all styles of dances including tap numbers, Charleston, the shimmie, jazz numbers and a hilarious type writer tap dance with the whole chorus typing on type writers.Tim does a fabulous job with them The performer's voices blend well in a harmonic balance under Ron's tutelage and he not only plays the keyboards for the show but conducts a seven piece orchestra with excellent trumpet and trombone playing by Taylor Temple and Josh Kane. The lighting which is Broadway style is by Nate Wheatley and sound by Dan Fisher is topnotch in this show, too. Kimberly Simone is the stage manager who keeps the set changes moving smoothly all night long. Pretty brunette Jennifer Mischley, first enters with long hair, returning seconds later with a bob and a short modern skirt, plays Millie Dillmount which is like Sweet Charity, who looks for love in all the wrong places. (Julie Andrews played this role in the movie.) She is a triple threat performer who can act, dance and sing wonderfully and she well deserves her thunderous standing ovation at curtain call. Jen gets to show off her beautiful singing voice in ballads as well as her belting voice in the best number in the show called "Gimme, Gimme" where she finally realizes that love is the most important ingredient in a relationship not wealth. (This comes after a heartfelt discussion with Muzzy.) This socko number is reminiscent of a Judy Garland song. Millie's modern philosophy is that a woman chooses the man she wants to marry and that's that which shows her naivete as a small town girl from Kansas in the middle of big New York City.Jen's opening number is "Not For the Life of Me" where she proclaims she will never go home again, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is the show stopping dance number where she leads the chorus as she changes into her beautiful red flapper costume with bobbed hair. A sentimental ballad "Jimmy" ends Act 1 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". Jen 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.

Tim Crepeau 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 Jen doing a soft shoe dance to it on a window ledge, the quartet version of "Falling in Love with Someone" ( a gorgeous ballad written by Richard Rodgers) while he displays his dancing ability in several numbers including "What Do I Need with Love?" which is a Gene Kelly inspired song which he sings after they are arrested at a speakeasy. I last reviewed Tim as Riff in West Side Story last March. Louise Tetreault 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 she dances up a storm with the chorus boys in "Long As I am Here with You". Louise is a hoot when she disguises herself as a young orphan trying to catch the evil white slavery ringleader.Jen's real life husband, Kevin Mischley who is tall, dark 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 pretends to type and tap dance in their chairs while the mean Miss Flannery (hilariously played by Kate Arthur while wearing a huge red wig and smoking a cigar) who punishes the slacker typists. His strong baritone voice is also heard in "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "Falling in Love with Someone". Kevin is very funny as this stuffed shirt who falls in love at first sight with Miss Dorothy. Tim's lovely wife, Taryn plays Miss Dorothy, the naive rich girl who wants to be poor. She wears her dark hair in banana curls and her lovely soprano voice soars in her duets "How the Other Half Lives" with Jen as they tap dance to make the elevator go up in the old building and in the love song with Kevin while they do a skipping dance and a soft shoe. She gets to show off her dancing ability in the chorus numbers but it is her acting as the California actress that will have you laughing all night long.

Gorgeous brunette Eve Marie Webster plays the evil Mrs Meers, while wearing a black wig with a white face and rouged cheeks like a Geisha girl gone bad. She is one of the biggest scene stealers in this show where she is disguised as a Chinese landlady who is really an ex-con Daisy Crupler who also 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. Eve's antics as this dragon lady are wild and over the top. She sings her solo, "You Don't Know" with her topnotch 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 which 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. I reviewed Eve Marie before as Miss Electra in "Gypsy" in 2008 and as Madge in "Picnic" in 2004. Tom Lavallee had to spray his blond hair black to portray Ching Ho who has a secret crush on Miss Dorothy, and keeps trying to rescue her. Filipe Fernandes 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 for making it a memorable one. 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.

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" (9 - 25 April)
@ Jenks Jr High, Division Street, PAWTUCKET RI
1 (401)726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide