Goodspeed's "Modern Millie": Dapper Flapper

Taylor Quick & The Cast of "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
(photo: Diane Sobolewski)

Thoroughly Modern Millie, currently being given new life at Goodspeed Musicals, was first a 1967 romantic musical film comedy, with a score that was a mixture of old and new songs, winning seven Oscars and five Golden Globes. But prior to that, the story was the basis for a 1956 British musical, Chrysanthemum. It finally arrived on the Broadway stage as Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2000, with additional music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and a Book by Scanlan and Richard Morris (who had written the screenplay for the film version). This Broadway version won seven Tonys including Best Musical. It remains a very enjoyable if slight story about....well, you've probably heard variations of this one before.

Millie Dumont (Taylor Quick), a small-town young woman from Kansas, arrives in New York with the intention of marrying for money, not for love. She finds a fast friend flapper in Miss Dorothy Brown (Samantha Sturm), an aspiring actress from California, when checking into a hotel run by the mysterious Mrs. Meers (Loretta Ables Sayre). She also meets paper clip salesman Jimmy Smith (Dan Deluca) and the head of the Sincere Trust Company, Trevor Graydon (Edward Watts). The hotel (which turns out to be more than it seems) has two oriental employees (more about this later), Ching Ho (James Seol) and Bun Foo (Christopher Shin) and another roomie, Miss Peg Flannery (Lucia Spina). Also in the ensemble are the stepmother of Jimmy and Miss Dorothy, Muzzy van Horsemere (Ramona Keller) and the head steno at Sincere Trust. Anyway, when Peg abruptly goes missing, Millie and Miss Dorothy smell a rat, and a bit of a convoluted mystery plays out. What then transpires (and perspires) is a healthy dose of great, truly irresistible choreography, (by Director Denis Jones) predominantly of the toe-tapping sort, which while accurately described as flapper dancing, the 'funky chicken” it's not. Once again the small stage at Goodspeed defies gravity and all spatial relationships. (Just check out Goodspeed's video on their website featuring the score's most infectious number, “Forget about the Boy”).

What also transports are great renderings of some snappy music. The title song, as well as “Not For the Life of Me”, “Jimmy”, “The Speed Test” and the snappiest of the lot, “Forget About the Boy”. Ironically, the score isn't the strongest element of the show, with is frankly a hodge-podge of different musical sources, but they serve their purpose, which is to support all that imaginative dancing. The other technical contributions excel, from the Scenic Design by Paul Tate dePoo III, (winner for his sets for “Showboat” at a recent IRNE Award ceremony by the Independent Reviewers of New England), to the Costume Design by Gregory Gale, Lighting Design by Rob Denton and Sound Design by Jay Hilton. Which is to say that this bright, bubbly and buoyant bit of fluff is in great hands, and wondrous terpsichorean feet.

And in great voice, one might add. Leading the festivities is a real find in Quick, chosen after a countrywide search, who's the perfect dapper flapper, followed by the ingratiating Dan DeLuca (recently in the HD broadcast of “Newsies”) and the dewy-eyed Sturm. It's a terrific cast that plays the plot fairly straight and respects the source material. Now about that “hotel” run by Mrs. Meers and her two Chinese henchmen. In case you've not seen a previous iteration or have forgotten a major plot point about their operation, let's just say it borders precariously on the stereotypical and politically incorrect. (And that goes for the original Broadway version as well). But at least none of it is malicious or dangerous to one's health, which is more than one can say about politics these days. This is a perfect choice for starting off this season at Goodspeed.

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