Thoroughly Modern Millie Book by Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris. New music by Jeanine Tesori. New lyrics by Dick Scanlan. Directed by Michael Mayer. Choreographed by Rob Ashford. Sets designed by David Gallo. Lighting designed by Donald Holder. Costumes designed by Martin Pakledinaz. Sound design by Jon Weston. Cast: Sutton Foster, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Harriet Harris, Marc Kudisch, Gavin Creel, Angela Christian, Ken Leung, Francis Jue, Anne L. Nathan.
Thoroughly Modern Millie, the new musical comedy which opened tonight at the Marquis Theatre, isn’t anywhere near as light, tuneful, and amusingly madcap as it wants and pretends to be. For the record, the book (by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan), new music (by Jeanine Tesori) and new lyrics (by Dick Scanlan) are barely serviceable. Rob Ashford’s choreography is derivative at best and Michael Mayer’s direction only occasionally rises above mediocre.
What makes Millie worth a visit (okay, two visits - maybe even three visits) are the performances of Harriet Harris, Marc Kudisch, and Sutton Foster. Harris and Kudisch have, in Mrs. Meers and Mr. Trevor Graydon, found roles they were born to play and are turning in the two funniest performances of the season, bar none. With Millie Dillmount, Sutton Foster brings to mind the young Mary Martin or Carol Channing, actresses who could not only carry a major musical, but drive it forward by sheer force of personality.
These three are blessed with extremely strong support from Angela Christian as Miss Dorothy Brown and Gavin Creel as Jimmy Smith as well as Ken Leung as Ching Ho and the adorable Francis Jue as Bun Foo. Sheryl Lee Ralph as Muzzy Van Hossmere makes an honest effort to contribute to the evening, but suffers greatly from the quality of her material.
David Gallo’s sets are good enough not to get in the way of the pretty costumes by Martin Pakledinaz. Donald Holder’s lighting does more to set the mood than either sets or costumes. Jon Weston’s sound design allows the superb orchestrations by Doug Besterman and Ralph Burns to work with and not against the performers.
In spite of its many faults, there is no denying that Thoroughly Modern Millie is not only the perfect tourist show, but also a darn near perfect family show. Millie is going to be comfortably entrenched at the Marquis for a long time to come.