Thoroughly Modern Millie

“Thoroughly Modern Millie”
a kate west review
directed by Michael Mayer
book by Richard Morris & Dick Scanlan
music by Jeanine Tesori; lyrics by Dick Scanlan
at the Ahmanson Theatre/Center Theatre Group/
L.A. Music Center
135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
May 19 – July 25, 2004; Call 213-628-2772

Recollections of the 1920’s conjure up stylish flappers, fast music and rapid-fire dialogue. The Ahmanson Theatre’s production of
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” provides all of this in standard Broadway musical spectacle, with catchy tunes and spiffy dance numbers. Die-hard fans of the 1967 movie version starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore may miss the comedic asides directly to the camera and general immediacy of the characters. This particular production is even broader and audiences unfamiliar with the film will enjoy the retro sets and costumes as well as such visual gags as translating songs into Chinese via a lowered screen. This is how the creators wink at the audience, in keeping with the rather screwball humor.

Brand new to the Big Apple of Manhattan, New York, and all the way from Kansas, Millie (the passionate and sparkling Darcie Roberts) is a modern girl. She is determined to lead a modern life by marrying her boss as this makes the best business sense. Love (maybe) comes later. Her first day there she runs into Jimmy (the rakish Joey Sorge), a carefree ladies man who dismisses her without a second thought. Yes, of course they hook up later. She gets a job as a stenographer and rents a room at the Hotel Priscilla, presided over by the shifty Mrs. Meers (formidable Hollis Resnik) with a suspiciously phony Chinese accent. It turns out that Meers is an American stage actress/convict now leading the notorious gang that kidnaps vulnerable young orphan girls and sells them into white slavery. When Millie and her friends discover that innocent young Dorothy (Diana Kaarina) is one of the abductees, they spring into action and justice is served.

Along the way, Mille learns that love is what a marriage is all about, not business. Thus she becomes emotionally evolved and truly modern. The ultimate resolution is silly and a bit unbelievable but fitting for a rather frothy and formulaic musical. There are highlights, however, such as Scenic Designer David Gallo’s scrumptious set, Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz’s luscious outfits and Director Michael Mayer’s quick transitions. Standouts include Darcie Roberts in the title role and Pamela Isaacs as the grandiose Muzzy Van Hossmere. (Side note: Although the latest trend of color-blind casting is noble in itself, it is a bit startling in a period piece.) Fun numbers prevail throughout, especially the tap-dancing stenographers in “The Speed Test” and the nightclub scene where the characters celebrate to “The Nuttycracker Suite.” If you are a fan of any and all musicals, you’ll tap your toes to this beat, but don’t look for a deeper meaning, obviously.

Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002 Original Broadway Cast)

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