Book: Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan
New Lyrics: Dick Scanlan
New Music: Jeanine Tesori
Book: Richard Morris
Director: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Thoroughly Modern Millie was originally written as a film vehicle for Julie Andrews and finally turned into a stage musical in 2002. It is 1922. Millie Dillmount is a girl from small town Kansas. She arrives in New York determined to find a job and marry her rich boss. After buying a modern dress and having her hair bobbed in the ‘new’ style, her purse is stolen and she finds herself on the street homeless and penniless. Accosting a stranger, she is pointed to the Hotel Priscilla run by the exotic Mrs. Meers and mostly populated by out of work young actresses. But Mrs. Meers has a nasty secret, she is the US end of a white slave trade, shipping the orphans among her guests off to Asia. Apart from this it is a typical boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again plot.
Joanne Clifton, best known as one of the professional dancers on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing has a singing voice that is a pleasant surprise. She carries her songs well and is an engaging lead. A certain nod is given to her dancing fame, especially with the Argentine Tango used as one of her dances, but it is never allowed to overshadow the perky personality she gives Millie.
Sam Barrett as Jimmy makes a nice foil for her and is charming as the easy going suitor. Katherine Glover is a suitably posh Miss Dorothy. She has a great voice and the duet between Dorothy and Millie shows how well the two women can sing. Jenny Fitzpatrick is tremendous as Jazz singer Muzzy Van Hossmere, rating the best voice in the show. There is also a strong ensemble cast who work hard in multiple roles and dance routines.
But the show is stolen by Lucas Rush as Mrs. Meers and Graham MacDuff as Mr. Trevor Grayson. Rush’s Mrs. Meers is an over the top parody of an Oriental woman, and only works because it is so outrageous. While Graham MacDuff’s portrayal of Millie’s boss Mr. Grayson is a tour de force of singing, comic timing and the ability to pratfall in the best way. He is excellent throughout but the scene where he is drunk after being stood up by Miss Dorothy is one of the funniest things seen in a long time.
The problem with the stage musical of Thoroughly Modern Millie is that despite being modern, it never seems quite sure how modern it really is. The darker plot of the slave trade seems dated even set in1922. However, if you can put aside the slightly dated feel, the show is a light frothy fun evening’s entertainment and a great night out.
Runs until 27 May 2017 | Image: Darren Bell