We kicked off the first press night of the spring season with the smash hit comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie, set in New York in 1922, which is based on the award-winning film which starred Julie Andrews in 1967, before it hit Broadway as a musical in 2002.
It tells the story of Millie Dillmount, played by professional dancer Joanne Clifton who is best known as last year’s winner of Strictly Come Dancing. Millie is a small town girl from Kansas, who ventures off to the bright lights of New York City following her dream to marry for money, instead of love – not too sure how modern that is for 1922.
Within minutes of Millie arriving in New York she has her purse stolen, and meets Jimmy Smith (Sam Barrett) who quickly feels sorry for her. To help, he writes a local hotel address on her arm, a place for aspiring actresses and orphans run by Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush).
Unknown to Millie, Mrs Meers is running a slavery business from the hotel, with residents randomly disappearing without question. I warmed to her instantly as she brought a comedy element to the show, although now and again her accent was hard to understand , but not enough to lose you. Her two workers, Ching Ho (Damian Bunhagiar) and Bun Foo (Andy Yau), went along with her underground business in hope that they would be reunited with their mother as promised. As a lot of the speech was in Chinese, a small screen was mounted at the top of the stage displaying English subtitles. Unfortunately the screen was so small I had to ask my friend if she was able to read it.
For a musical that I was really looking forward to, I was disappointed as it lacked a certain something at the start. The first few numbers didn’t grab my attention but twenty minutes later, once we had got to know more characters and the story unfolded, I was soon eager to see what would happen next.
As the show went on it was clear to see this was a very talented cast. The powerful voices, and energetic choreographed toe tapping dance routines were fantastic, not to mention the dazzling 1920’s costumes. The costumes took me back to when I was young and wanted to dress up like that – who I am kidding, I still want to dress up like that!
Millie put all her efforts into trying to win over her boss, Mr Trevor Graydon (Graham MacDuff), a rich businessman who she planned was going to give her the life she thought she was after. He was one of my favourite characters and when he hit the bottle after having his heart broken by the gorgeous Miss Dorothy Brown (Lotty Somers) I don’t think I have ever found a drunken scene so funny, it certainly can’t be an easy part to play and in fact it felt so real that even the characters on stage began to laugh which made it all the more hilarious.
I have to give a huge shout out to Mussy Van Hossmere (Jenny Fitzpatrick) for her incredible performance and powerful voice! She felt like the mother of the show, someone with wisdom and guidance and a whole lot of va va voom!
What about Millie? I couldn’t fault her at all. She’s the star of the show for a reason. Her energy, facial expressions and charisma nailed it for me. Who knew she could sing as well as dance? What I like is the way she pulled off the funny, emotional and love scenes; and I can imagine that many women leaving will be wanting to cut their hair into a shiny sleek bob.
Parts of the show reminded me the musical Chicago, not only because of the 1920’s theme, but also because of the scenes behind bars. I’m sure anyone who loves Chicago as much as I do can relate to that. The office tap scene was another that stood out as being on point, and even though I haven’t left humming a song, I ended up tapping my way back to the car.
This classic, although not so modern production, will touch your heart, leave a smile on your face and a question in your heart “What would you marry for?”
Thoroughly Modern Millie runs until Saturday 1st April 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.