Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Goodspeed Musicals
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of The Most Beautiful Room in New York


Taylor Quick and Cast
Photo by Diane Sobolewski
A snappy rendition of Thoroughly Modern Millie appears onstage at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, through July 2nd. Filled with zip, the first few bars of the opening overture during a recent midweek matinee inspired what appeared to be a group of middle-schoolers in the house to sway and shake to the instrumentals. Based upon the film version, the book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan takes hold during the second act. Jeanine Tesori provides new music and Dick Scanlan new lyrics (five songs were previously written by others). Denis Jones, director and choreographer, is the man who kicks this one into an invigorating high gear from its first moment.

It is 1922 in New York City and Millie Dillmount (Taylor Quick) is driven to somehow establish herself. Someone, though, swipes her purse, scarf, and one of her shoes. Jimmy Smith (Dan DeLuca) tries to give her some counsel. Before long, the woman running the local hotel where Millie stays, Mrs. Meers (Loretta Ables Sayre), has some sharp words. In time, we learn that Mrs. Meers leads a white slavery ring, sending orphan girls to Asia. Actors James Seol as Ching Ho and Christopher Shin as Bun Foo make the very most of their turns on stage. There's also a come-and-go friendship that Millie has with Miss Dorothy Brown (Samantha Sturm), a very pretty young woman.

Millie, a pragmatist, goes to Sincere Trust insurance company for a job, but her aspiration is to snag Mr. Trevor Graydon (Edward Watts), who happens to run the company, as a husband. A bit later, Jimmy gets Millie to go with him to a shindig where Muzzy Van Hossmere (Ramona Keller) appears. Muzzy is a quite talented singer. Millie is beginning to fall for Jimmy but a confusion near the end of the first act urges her to declare that she is through with him.

During the second portion of the show, Graydon (high but campy drama here) suddenly cannot resist Dorothy. Millie, meanwhile, is more determined than ever to marry Graydon. And so it goes: the story supplies surprising shifts and switches as it evolves. Thus, a production which, early on, could be appreciated solely on the strength of its music, dance and performance now spins forward with a fairly intriguing and evolving plot. Anyone who enters this theater wondering whether the experience might be "same-old" might very well walk away fully delighted.

The star of this Thoroughly Modern Millie is, without a doubt, Taylor Quick as the title character; the story behind her appearance lines up well with the musical. The young actress (in real life) had recently moved to New York, when Goodspeed held a non-Equity dance call. She was simply trying to get into the show. She is effervescent as Millie, able to sing, tap-dance, do the Charleston—all with a winning combination of poise and pizzazz. Cast as the lead, she scores immediately with "Not for the Life of Me." She and Samantha Sturm (playing Dorothy) are tuneful with "How the Other Half Lives."

Other first act highlights include Loretta Ables Sayre's "They Don't Know" and Ramona Keller's "Only In New York." The second portion of the play, early, focuses upon Watts as Graydon and Sturm's Dorothy collaborating on "I'm Falling in Love with Someone." There is much, much more to follow.

Jones, at the helm, has people on stage in motion much of the time and it's all to the good. Michael O'Flaherty, as musical director, is obviously instructing musicians not to be shy with their instruments. This production boasts a deliciously jazzy score. Its set, designed by Paul Tate DePoo III, depicts the city skyline, and Gregory Gale's many wardrobe selections perfectly represent the early 1920s.

In all, call this one an excellent fit for the Godspeed Opera House stage which enables everyone watching to feel a part of the proceedings. It is a very bright show, one in which the performers appear to be energetically charged from start to finish.

Thoroughly Modern Millie continues at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Connecticut, through July 2nd, 2017. For tickets, call (860) 873-8668 or visit goodspeed.org.


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