Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 15, 2017

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
through July 2, 2017
by Bernadette Johnson

It’s 1922, and wide-eyed country girl Millie Dillmount arrives in the Big Apple from Kansas during one of the most exciting times in the city’s history. Tearing up her return ticket, she plunges into her newfound freedom with a new “do” and frock – bobbed hair, cloche hat and flapper-style dress. Determined to make a name for herself, Millie has her sights set not on stardom but on matrimony, and only a rich catch will fit the bill. Her target:  a boss who’s wealthy and eligible. The handsome, boisterous playboy Jimmy Smith she encounters on arrival in the city doesn’t rate a second glance or a second thought.

She takes a room at the Hotel Priscilla, where single women (preferably without family) are “warmly” welcomed by Mrs. Meers (Loretta Ables Sayre), an evil, conniving mastermind, and immediately sets out to land the perfect job. It’s a classic love story with twists and turns but with, strangely enough, a faux-dark subplot of white slavery.

Photo by Diane Sobolewski
Taylor Quick and Dan DeLuca are perfectly cast as Millie and Jimmy, their chemistry as magical as their powerful voices. Their duet “I Turned the Corner,” performed on Paul Tate dePoo III’s cleverly designed “window ledge,” is outstanding and endearing. Edward Watts, as Millie’s boss Trevor Graydon, is all business suit and starched demeanor, until he steps way out of character, to the audience’s pure delight, on first sight of Miss Dorothy Brown (Samantha Sturm) and launches into “I’m Falling in Love with Someone.” His expressions and vocals are priceless. Ramona Keller, as Muzzy Van Hossmere, draped in costume designer Gregory Gale’s shimmering gold lame gown, delivers a standout blues-inspired “Only in New York,” a dazzling performance in Tate dePoo’s equally dazzling penthouse.

Gale excels throughout with period costumes that enthrall, and Tate dePoo has set magical scenes for the same, in particular meshed with Rob Denton’s lighting designs, which accentuate the lavishness of the era – pure eye candy. Denton has even managed lighting that makes dePoo’s elevator “lift.”

Throughout, dance routines are slick and smooth, a testament to Denis Jones’ choreography and an outstanding ensemble cast. Standout numbers include “The Speed Test,” a secretarial office type and tap, and a speakeasy all-out jazz/Charleston extravaganza.

No Shakespearean drama here, just a delightful romp.