Nancy Sasso Janis
“A lot can happen in 7 days. Just read the bible.” - Millie in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’
East Haddam, CT - ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie,’ a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and a book by Richard Morris and Scanlan, opens the 2017 season at Goodspeed Musicals. It is based on the 1967 film of the same name and the musical is in the style of comic pastiche. The musical tells the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to NYC to marry for boss for money instead of love, which was a thoroughly modern aim in 1922 when women were just entering the workforce. The title character begins to take delight in the flapper lifestyle, but problems arise when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a white slavery ring in China. In the original Broadway production in 2002, the then-unknown Sutton Foster was the last minute replacement to play the title role.
The Goodspeed production was directed and choreographed by Denis Jones, who tried to bring the majestic Art Deco of 1920s NYC to the small Goodspeed Opera House stage. Joshua S. Ritter, Education Manager and Library Director at Goodspeed writes that the director’s goal was to bring vibrancy and joy to the stage with this “rollicking tap-happy show filled with madcap mistaken identity, the energy of the roaring twenties and plenty of heart.” Some “moderns” in the audience may still be offended by the portrayal of the Asian characters, despite the efforts of the writing team to soften the stereotype.
The mostly Equity cast lit up the stage with their performances. Taylor Quick made her Goodspeed debut in the title role and brought just the right amount of spunk. As soon as she began her first number “Not For The Life Of Me,” after she quick-changed onstage into a “modern,” I knew she had the voice for this role. Dan DeLuca, who was so good in the role of Jack Kelly on the tour of Disney’s ‘Newsies,’ was just as likable as Jimmy. Ramona Keller, who made her Broadway debut in ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe,’ was both sultry and endearing as the fast-talking Muzzy.
Loretta Ables Sayre brought out the comedy in the role of hotel owner Mrs. Meers and James Seol (Ching Ho) and Christopher Shin (Bun Foo) played well the strongly drawn characters of her henchman. Lucia Spina, who I remembered in the original cast of ‘Kinky Boots’ on Broadway, made her mark as Miss Flannery. Samantha Sturm made her Goodspeed debut in the role of the lovely Miss Dorothy.
Edward Watts was both tall and handsome as Millie’s boss Trevor Graydon. The hardworking and tapdancing members of the ensemble included Darien Crago (‘Backwards in High Heels’ at WBT,) Caley Crawford, Patrick Graver, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Emily Kelly, Daniel May, PJ Palmer, Amelia Jo Parish, Sherisse Springer, Sarah Quinn Taylor, Amy Van Norstrand, and Darius Wright.
Mark Adam Rampmeyer did an amazing job with the hair and wig design that worked perfectly with the spectacular costumes designed by Gregory Gale. From the blacks and grays of the opening number, to the blues of “Forget About the Boy,’ to all of the wonderful evening clothes, every ensemble was a winner.
The period choreography by Denis Jones was both joyful and well-executed. Tapping while typing was fun and effective. Music Director Michael O’Flaherty will be presenting his original musical ‘A Connecticut Christmas Carol’ at the Norma Terris Theatre this autumn. Paul Tate dePoo III designed a lavish set for the small space (and worked out the subtitle projection) and Rob Denton lit his first show at Goodspeed with a most effective suggestion of a moving elevator. Sound by Jay Hilton was well-executed.
I enjoyed the press night performance along with a slew of local critics. ‘Millie’ runs through July 2 at the Goodspeed Opera House.
The cast of Goodspeed Musicals’ take “The Speed Test” in Thoroughly Modern Millie now playing at The Goodspeed through July 2.Photo Credit © Photo by Diane Sobolewski
Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local Patch.com sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417