BWW Reviews: THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at Georgetown Palace is a Valentine to Broadway
A few minutes into Thoroughly Modern Millie, now playing in a delightful production at the Georgetown Place, the likable ensemble and the optimistic title character sing, "Everything today is thoroughly modern. Check your personality." A personality check may be in order for any person who doesn't enjoy this madcap musical. When life gets us down and virtually anything on the evening news is incredibly depressing, it's nice to see a show with a heroine like Millie, a girl who tells us that with some guts, a pinch of wit, a dash of humor, and a healthy swig of booze, the world is our oyster.
Millie, the 2002 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, tells the story of Kansas-born Millie Dillmount who leaves the plains for the glamorous world of New York City, circa 1922. She immediately transforms herself into a flapper with the "thoroughly modern" aim of marrying her boss as soon as she can find employment. Of course, her plans are derailed by Jimmy, a handsome stranger, and by Mrs. Meers, her landlord and leader of a white slavery ring. The silly, ridiculous show borrows heavily from the 1967 film of the same name and, like the film, mixes new songs (with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Dick Scanlan) with popular tunes of the era. The book by Dick Scanlan and Richard Henry Morris improves upon the film's screenplay by providing clarity to the zany plot without sacrificing any of the humor.
Director David Sray turns the quirky material into a fantastically entertaining evening. The show gets progressively more ridiculous and comical, and the campy moments (of which there are many) are hysterical. Without a doubt, Sray's intent is to create an unabashed valentine to the Golden Age of Broadway, and he succeeds with ease.
Sray's creative team also turns in top notch work. The choreography by Jesee Smart is showy, glitzy, and intricate. Smart provides us with showstopper after showstopper. The full company numbers, particularly the title song and Act Two's opener "Forget About the Boy," bring down the house, but the smaller ones are magical as well, especially a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers inspired soft shoe staged on a window ledge. Barb Jernigan's set is complex and lavish, allowing the show to manage the large number of scene changes required, and the lighting by Stuart Feild is lush and bright.
As is par for the course for the Georgetown Palace, the cast is spectacular and professional. While the entire ensemble is outstanding, there are plenty of bit players that prove to be bright spots, namely Ismael Soto III as a Chinese laundryman and Samantha Watson as a dowdy and cranky secretary.
The outstanding cast continues with a quartet of strong supporting players. Though she may be a bit young to play Muzzy Van Hossmere, the rich socialite/cabaret singer, LariEna Brown is fantastic in the role. With her leggy physique and her breathy voice, Brown is the epitome of the glitzy showgirl. Melita McAtee, always a sensational character actress, adds one more hilarious performance to her roster as Mrs. Meers. Her take on Mrs. Meers is so deliciously, comically evil and so cartoonish that she may as well be Wyle E. Coyote.
And though they're given two characters who are often drowned out in lesser productions of Millie, Scott Shipman and Tiffany Blackmon are superb as Trevor Gradon and Miss Dorothy, respectively. Shipman hams it up at Trevor, Millie's boss and target for matrimony. With his booming baritone voice and his over-the-top facial expressions, Shipman turns his throw-away character into a standout supporting role. As Millie's innocent best friend Dorothy, Tiffany Blackmon is divine and allows her angelic soprano voice to soar. When coupled together, Shipman and Blackmon are unstoppable. Their Act Two duet, "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life/I'm Falling in Love with Someone," is both sweet and sidesplitting.
But the true stars of the show are Stephen Jack and Sara Burke as the two leads. The handsome Stephen Jack is perfect as Jimmy Smith. With his beautiful tenor voice, his sarcasm, and his occasional moments of tenderness and vulnerability, Stephen Jack's Jimmy is a lovable cad. He's an absolute scoundrel and often a complete jerk, but there's no question that a girl like Millie would be inexplicably drawn to him. And as Millie, Sara Burke is sensationally adorkable. She's quirky, energetic, and beautiful. With a wink, a smile, and a crinkle of the nose, she gives a plucky charm to the role. I've seen many Millie's in the last ten years, and none have been as fun to watch as Sara Burke. You can't help but love her, and that sentiment can be said of both the character and the actress responsible for her.
As should be expected of the Georgetown Palace, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a wonderful production of a celebrated musical. Though the campy material may not be of the highest brow, this production is thoroughly entertaining, thoroughly charming, thoroughly outstanding, and thoroughly worth seeing.
Running time: 2 hours and 50 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE plays the Georgetown Palace at 810 S. Austin Ave, Georgetown TX now thru June 16. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.
Tickets are $24 general, $22 seniors, $14 military and students, $10 children.
For tickets and information, please visit www.georgetownpalace.com