Set in 1922, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the story of small-town girl Millie Dillmount, who has come from Salina, Kansas to New York City determined to get ahead by marrying for money instead of love. She embraces becoming "thoroughly modern" by bobbing her hair, donning clothing in the style of a flapper, joining the work force as a stenographer and setting herself up in a room at the Hotel Priscilla for Women. Though Millie plans to marry her wealthy boss at the Sincere Trust Insurance Company, Trevor Graydon III, she finds herself taken with a poor, madcap paper clip salesman named Jimmy Smith.
Millie befriends a wealthy, aspiring actress named Miss Dorothy Brown who is also staying at the Hotel Priscilla, where hotel owner Mrs. Meers is secretly running a white slavery ring. Mrs. Meers preys on the young women staying in her hotel, selling those without any family into white slavery in China after drugging them. Mrs. Meers is only able to do this with the help of her hotel employees, brothers Bun Foo and Ching Ho, whom she has promised will be rewarded with their mother being brought to the United States. The girls staying at the hotel end up at the penthouse of the glamorous nightclub singer Muzzy van Hossmere after a night on the town. The story unfolds from there to a rightfully happy ending with a few surprise twists along the way.
Laurie Veldheer is wonderfully vivacious as Millie. While she is a good singer, particularly appealing in the song "Forget About The Boy," she is an even stronger actress, adding a depth to her character sometimes missed by other actresses in this role. Jeff Kready as Jimmy is pricklier and more arrogant than expected at the top of the show, but his acting choice adds more of an arch to his performance when his heart unexpectedly warms toward Millie later in the show. Kready seems to do a tad less dancing in "What Do I Need With Love" and "I Turned The Corner" than recalled in other productions, however. Ashley Kate Adams is sweet as the somewhat vapid Miss Dorothy, and her lovely high notes soar above the other singers in the reprise of "Falling In Love." Burke Moses is perfection as the stilted Trevor Graydon. His rich voice and good looks are comically juxtaposed with acting bits born from a melodramatic take on a Nelson Eddie and Jeanette McDonald musical. He is especially funny in "Falling In Love"all done very tongue in cheek.
As Muzzy, Brenda Braxton is a stronger singer than actress, coming off as a performer more accustomed to doing cabaret work. While she has a pleasant voice, it is not big enough or exciting enough to infuse the role with the energy and attitude required. Lenora Nemetz (Mrs. Meers) is obviously an actress of considerable talent, but spends too much time chewing the scenery in this production. She has a big singing voice and a big presence. While the role of Mrs. Meers is written to be over the top, her heavy-handed approach makes the character slightly more annoying than amusing. She should indeed be the villain we love to hatebut she should still not be annoying.
From lights, sound, sets and costumes to the best live musicians, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre continues to provide the best production values of the local regional theatres in South Florida. They truly are on a level matched only by the Kravis, Broward and Arsht Centers for the Performing Arts. Their production of Thoroughly Modern Millie is an entertaining must see for anyone who saw the beloved movie of the same name so many years ago.
Thoroughly Modern Millie will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through March 24, 2013. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
^Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.