BWW Reviews: GCT Brings On Splashy, Roaring THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Thoroughly Modern Millie/book by Richard Morris/music by Jeanine Tesori/lyrics by Dick Scanlan/directed by Danny Michaels/choreographed by Orlando Alexander/Glendale Centre Theatre (GCT)/through October 4
The 1920s were not called the roaring twenties for nothing, and when 'modern' girls came from small towns across America to New York to seek a job, a husband and money, they were an overabundant lot. Take Millie Dillmount (Allyson Spiegelman) for example, who, like many others, sets her eyes, but hardly her heart, on dreamy boss Trevor Graydon (Kelby Thwaits), who also has eyes for Miss Dorothy Brown (Deanna Bakker). Add Jimmy Smith (Jason Webb), who literally ran into Millie on the streets and then pops back into the picture, attempting to win her over romantically. Welcome to modern big city living: take a number, stand in line. And there's even more discouragement. Apart from New York's degrading yet flashy social life led by Muzzy Van Hossmere (Julia Marie Rodriguez), Millie is living in a den of iniquity the Priscilla Hotel where hostess Mrs.Meers (Alison England) has a side job selling orphan girls into white slavery. Despite all these calamities, big and small, there's an air of the ridiculous surrounding them. Based on the 1967 film which starred Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing, Thoroughly Modern Millie is an ode to madcap senselessness, and go no further than to Glendale and GCT for a nifty, roaringly splashy revival now onstage through October 4.
The style of the show is a pastiche, from the French, which unlike a parody, imitates the style of something else by celebrating rather than mocking it. There is very staccato music in TMM along the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Modern Major General" like the title song and "Gimme"... and a wildly, screamingly funny ode to Al Jolson and "Mammy" with "Muqin" where two Asian servants (Anton Mikhail Garsola and Hisato Masuyama) serve Meers in exchange for special favors like bringing their mother over from China. At least that's the plan, but will Meers and her duo get caught for their illegal enterprises? The clubs get raided and the innocent girls longing for some fun get thrown into the pokey, and so not even the innocent are spared humiliation. New York is crime city and everyone is its victim, but not without a whole lot of enthusiastic craziness in the process.
Under Danny Michaels' fast-paced and all flourish direction, the cast is sublime. Spiegelman is a gem as Millie, all sassy fun and mischief with a terrific set of pipes. Bakker covers her secret well as Miss Dorothy and Rodriguez knocks Muzzy out of the park with her big belting numbers. England is pure hilarity as Meers, with a JoAnne Worley over.the.top delivery that could make anyone laugh. In the chorus, and proving there is no such thing as a small part, Tiffany LaBarbera Palmer bowls us overs as Peg Flannery, Graydon's bitchy leader of the office brigade. Thwaits is very amusing as the romantic cad Graydon and Webb adds a whole lot of 'white bread' wholesomeness as Jimmy Smith. Garsola and Masuyama are delightful as the Asian servants, especially Garsola as Ching Ho who puts his life on the line to save Miss Dorothy. He's so precious, I heard one audience member exclaim, "Ahhhh...". The rest of the ensemble are all dynamite as they shimmy their fringe to Orlando Alexander's zippy dance moves.
TMM (Thoroughly Modern Millie) has some great music from Jeanine Tesori, as well as a couple of memorable standards, and abounds in unparalleled silliness, which will brighten anyone's day. GCT do themselves proud once more with a glorious production filled with joy and mirth. It may be 2014, but you could sure fool me that this show even be considered dated...like the title suggests, it's every bit as modern as your imagination will allow.