BWW Reviews: Thoroughly Thrilled with Imagine's MILLIE

By: Jul. 20, 2015
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Photo by Jerri Shafer

Those who have never seen THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE before should be very careful when they attend Imagine Production's version of the two-act musical. In her directorial debut with Imagine, director/choreographer Rose Babington has together a show that future MILLIE productions will have a hard time topping.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE opened July 17 and will run through Aug. 2 at the Wall Street Nightclub (144 N. Wall Street in downtown Columbus).

In THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, Millie Dillmount (Meredith Zahn), a young woman from Selina, Kan., comes to New York City in the Roaring 20s to find the spotlight on Broadway, marry for money and have financial security, not necessarily in that order. Instead, she finds herself falling for underprivileged schemer Jimmy Smith (Jared Joseph) and living in a hotel that is the epicenter of a white slavery ring.

MILLIE was originally released in 1967 as a movie with a powerhouse cast of Julie Andrews, Mary Taylor Moore and Carol Channing. An updated version of the show opened on Broadway in 2002, earning six Tony Awards including best performance by a leading actress in a musical for Sutton Foster and best musical.

A couple of things make Imagine's production so exceptional. First is spot-on casting. Zahn carries off Millie's growth from a wide-eyed dreamer to a skeptical pessimist with ease. She shows off her solid alto voice in songs like "Not for the Life of Me" and a rapid fire delivery of "The Speed Test." She is perfectly paired with Joseph, who brings a savvy confidence and a strong tenor voice to Smith.

Babington has built an extraordinary foundation with those two as the cornerstone. Kathy Taylor is a great comic foil as the bumbling Mrs. Meers, who has a predilection for orphaned actresses who won't be missed in the Big Apple. Meer's inept henchmen Ching Ho (Dante DiNucci) and Bun Foo (Sharon Kibe), whose Chinese dialogue is subtitled on two large video production screens, add chuckles to the production.

Ann Johnson (who plays Dorothy), Hannah Berry (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Joyce Patrone (Miss Flannery) and Chad Anderson (Trevor Graydon) bring the show together. Berry's reading of "Only in New York" is one of the many highlights of the show.

Secondly, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE also has several small part players viewers couldn't take their eyes off. Standing out among a truly talented chorus were Deborah Chow, Joshua Fouasnon, Cassie Gress, Odette Gutierrez del Arroyo Perez and Brian Gray. Lastly, the band of Joe Spurlock (drums), Jon Allen (bass guitar), Ben Hunter (trumpet), Brook Cornely (trombone), Faheem Najieb (saxophone/clarinet), Nik Repka (violin) and Abby Zeszotek (flute) keep the 1920s score tight and on point.

Although the show endured a couple of clunky scene changes and some of the ethnic stereotypes in the script make the show seem a little less than "modern," THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE is one of the highlights of Columbus theatre's summer season.

Imagine Productions will present THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE 7:30 p.m. at the Wall Street Nightclub (144 N. Wall Street in downtown Columbus). For ticket information, please call 614-398-1110.


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