Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: 21st Annual Youth Musical THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE a Big Hit at the Morgan-Wixson


Surely most theatre folks have seen productions of the fabulous musical THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical, making the show the 2002 season's most awarded new show on Broadway, based on the original story and screenplay by Richard Morris for the 1967 Universal Pictures film directed by George Roy Hill and starring Julie Andrews. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, the current production directed by Anne Gesling for the Y.E.S. Youth/Teen Program at Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theatre is just as good as many adult production I have seen, given the cast's talent, Gesling's spot-on fast-paced direction and fabulous 1920's costuming, Daniel Koh's musical direction creating wonderful cast harmonies, and creative choreography by Lauren Blair.

The simple-to-follow story takes you back to the height of the Jazz Age in 1922 New York City, when "moderns" including a flapper named Millie Dillmount (the fabulous Zoe D'Andrea) were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce, and rewriting the rules of love. This high-spirited musical romp is a delightful valentine to the long-standing spirit of New York City and the people who seek to discover themselves there. D'Andrea's wide-eye innocence when she arrives during the opening number will immediately put you in her corner to succeed, especially when she is soon mugged during the opening number, losing her hat, scarf, purse and shoe.

With not even a cent to her name, she manages to trip passerby Jimmy Smith (tall and lanky Quinn Snow Robinson), a handsome, carefree young man who makes his way through life on whim and wits. The two have no idea who intertwined their lives are about to become, and D'Andrea and Robinson are a joy to watch as their relationship unfolds during a Fred and Ginger routine on a window ledge above the city skyscrapers, thanks to the festive set designed Tristan Griffin with lighting designed by William Wilday.

Millie's grand plan is to find a job as a secretary for a wealthy man and then marry him. She manages to earn an assistant spot with Trevor Graydon (Chandler David) after she passes his speed dictation test, but has to work hard to get the other office workers to like her, especially Miss Flannery (colorful Zelda Saltzman). The Backstage Mafia certainly worked their magic transforming the set pieces into so many different locations, from this office setting to all the other places called for in the script. I bet there is a whole other musical choreographed backstage!

However, her plan goes completely awry when Mrs. Meers (Rosey Murrah and Fiona Porter share the over-the-top role), the owner of the dingy Hotel Priscilla who kidnaps young girls to sell to the Far East. Rosey Murrah was hysterical in the role at the matinee I attended, especially when paired onstage by her diabolical cohorts Chin Ho and Bun Foo (expert comical duo Hollister Starrett and Clayton Davis). I guarantee when the trio break into Al Jolson's hit "Mammy," the theater will be filled with explosive laughter. The two talented young men learned many Chinese lines phonetically, even the lyrics to this song which are translated on a large screen above the stage.

But Millie's wealthy boss is slow in proposing marriage after he falls for Millie's beautiful, throwback blonde roommate Dorothy Brown (ready-for-my-close-up Anilee List); and the man Millie actually falls in love with doesn't have a dime to his name - or so he tells her. During the formal party held at Muzzy Van Hossmere (stately Cassandra Atkinson), we get a look at the shifting couples as everyone tries to control the spotlight. But by the end of the musical, truths are revealed and young lovers paired up so everyone wins.

Filled with frisky flappers, dashing leading men and a dragon-lady of a villainess audiences will love to hate, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE is a perfectly constructed production of madcap merriment. From explosive tap numbers to the Fred and Ginger routine on a window ledge, musical theatre has found a new heroine for the ages in Thoroughly Modern Millie as portrayed by lovely Zoe D'Andrea!

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE with new music by Jeanine Tesori, New Lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and Book by Richard Henry Morris and Dick Scanlan, continues through December 17, 2016 on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, located at 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Reserved Seats: Adults - $20, Children 12 and Under - $15. Tickets: 310-828-7519

Photos by Joey Moretti

Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Shari Barrett