Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Ranae McIntyre

Anna Perry's energetic and period-perfect choreography - along with impressive performances from a cadre of university students destined for Broadway stardom - ensures that Belmont University Musical Theatre's Thoroughly Modern Millie is a complete and utter delight, featuring a memorable score wrapped up in a rather daft but engaging storyline that earns every bit of the resounding applause in a standing ovation that comes at show's end.

Yet another feather in the cap of BUMT's faculty (which includes program coordinator and production manager Nancy Allen, director David Shamburger, musical director Jo Lynn Burks, assistant director Erica Aubrey and the aforementioned Perry), Thoroughly Modern Millie is the perfect springtime musical diversion. It's a light-hearted romp, amusingly and tantalizingly enacted by a tremendous ensemble of musical theater triple threats in a production that is as stylish as Millie Dillmount's flattering new bob that instantly casts her as a "young modern" shortly after her arrival in Manhattan from the plains of Kansas.

It's 1922 and the accompanying storyline of Thoroughly Modern Millie, which features a collection of bathtub gin-swilling, fleet-footed and fresh-faced young moderns reveling in their newfound freedom at the very start of the Roaring '20s, seems funny and fresh (even if some of the jokes are as old as the hills) in Shamburger's fast-paced production.

Perry's superb choreography - which makes grand use of the Troutt Theatre stage and dazzling dance steps of the period - propels the action ever-forward, putting the tremendous talents of her student actors on full display and showing off their abilities to startling effect. Not only are Perry's big production numbers eye-popping and exhilarating, but if you watch closely, you'll see her creative hand in smaller, more intimate moments that justifiably call attention to her awesome skills. Among the most electrifying moments in the production are her show-opening "Not for the Life of Me"/"Thoroughly Modern Mille" production number that sets the glorious tone for the entire show, and Act Two's opening, "Forget About the Boy," in which Millie and her fellow stenogs threaten to rip the roof off of the Troutt Theatre with their joyous tap-dancing.

Likewise, musical director Burks' tremendous orchestra - onstage but often out of sight throughout the show - play the score by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan with consummate skill and showbiz acumen. Could there be a conductor more entertaining than the peripatetic and confident Burks? We sincerely doubt it. Her obvious enthusiasm for the material always ensures that her musicians and actors are along for the adventure of a musical theater lifetime.

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE Heading Shamburger's exceptionally talented ensemble are Ranae McIntyre and Bobby Hogan as Millie Dillmount and Jimmy Smith (they alternate in the roles with Katelynn Fahrer and Austin Querns), the star-crossed romantic leads of the deliciously off-kilter tale, along with Gabe Hoyer and Lauren Metzinger (sharing their roles with Brooks Bennett and Brooke Bucher) as the secondary romantic leads, Trevor Graydon III, Millie's boss at Sincere Trust Insurance Company, and "Miss Dorothy," Millie's best chum at the Hotel Priscilla, which provides low-cost lodging to any number of young women looking to make good in the Big Apple. Macy Medford, Peri Barnhill, Ginny Swanson, Emily Urbanski, Rachel Zimmer and Emma Oesch play the members of that particularly watchable sextet.

Winningly cast as Millie, McIntyre shows tremendous stage presence and commitment in her performance, charming her way through every scene with confidence, while somehow retaining her character's wide-eyed innocence even as she claims her place among all the sophisticated young women in New York City, circa 1922. McIntyre looks every inch the "young modern" in Allison Hearn's gorgeous costumes and she makes audiences sit up and take notice with her performance of "Gimme, Gimme," the Act Two number that's become a favorite of ambitious young actresses everywhere in search of an audition piece, and with "Not For the Life of Me" that introduces her in the musical's first moments. McIntyre commands the stage with ease, gracefully capturing Millie's ambition, which she underscores with the added warmth of a lovestruck and romantic ingenue, to carry the show.

Hogan, who has the look and manner of a Broadway leading man to augur future success, sings and dances his way through the show with an easy charm. His onstage chemistry with McIntyre is palpable in their scenes together, most notably during their opening sequence in which boy meets girl, boy offends girl and girl squares her shoulders and decides to prove the boy wrong. The initial contretemps between the two serves to presage the very moment they once again bump into one another and audiences watch them fall in love. Hogan has a lock on roles that call for a singing/dancing matinee idol - his expressive face and broad smile make him a dead ringer for any number of Broadway song-and-dance men since the 1920s - and he makes the most of every scene entrusted to him.

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Lauren Metzinger and Gabe Hoyer

Hoyer, who has a collection of stellar reviews to accompany his stage roles in BUMT productions during his tenure at the school, virtually steals the show as the affable and well-meaning, if rather unaware, Graydon and he exhibits a notable sense of comic timing that simply cannot be taught: It's innate and so much a part of the young actor that it's almost breathtaking. His duet with Metzinger as Miss Dorothy, "I'm Falling In Love With Someone" (which interpolates Victor Herbert's "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life"), is one of the show's musical highlights. Hoyer and the lovely Metzinger combine for a performance that is perfectly modulated, yet altogether stunning.

If Hoyer doesn't walk away with the show tucked into his back pocket, it may be because of the performances of four other cast members: Erika Johnson as the manipulative Mrs. Meers, who runs a white slavery ring when she's not swanning about the Hotel Priscilla; Hudson Snyder and Darian Goulding as her bellmen/henchmen Qin Ho and Bang Fu; and Maggie Hutchison as the socialite Muzzy Van Hossmere, who's pulled herself up by the spaghetti straps of her luxe period costumes, to become the Macon, Georgia-born Muzzy with an accent as sweet as molasses and as lyrical as a songbird's. Johnson shows off her own impeccable timing in her over-the-top performance as "Meersie" and shows off her onstage versatility in the process, while Snyder and Goulding deliver perfectly nuanced comedic performances, all the while singing lyrics in Cantonese - their performance alone may be worth the price of a ticket.

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE They are surrounded by an enthusiastic supporting cast featuring some of the BUMT program's best-known personalities who are just as likely to be cast as leads in upcoming productions as the assembled starpower in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Shamburger's focused direction perfectly sets the action in the midst of the 1920s, the milieu of the era evident throughout the sterling production.

Caroline Morris' lighting is beautifully designed and ideally accentuates the scenic design by Shamburger. Randy Craft's sound design ensures that every voice is heard in the hard-to-fill confines of the Troutt.

Playing through this Saturday (after a March 22 opening), there remain three more performances of Thoroughly Modern Millie at Belmont University's Troutt Theater, which prove to be the perfect accompaniment to a beautiful beginning of spring in Nashville. Don't miss it!

Thoroughly Modern Millie. Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan. New music by Jeanine Tesori. New Lyrics by Dick Scanlan. Original story and screenplay by Richard Morris for the Universal Pictures Film. Directed by David Shamburger. Musical direction by Jo Lynn Burks. Choreographed by Anna Perry. Presented by Belmont University Musical Theatre. At the Troutt Theatre, Nashville. Through March 30. Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission).

Related Stories
Interview: Learn About Temple Universitys MFA in Musical Theater Collaboration Photo
Want to further your education in the arts? Temple University's Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theater Collaboration could be the program for you!

Interview: Consider Viterbo University for Your College Experience Photo
Looking for a school to further your arts education? Look no further than Viterbo University. The Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Viterbo University is home to a new generation of young artists destined for careers in theatre, music theatre, music education, vocal performance, and dance. The program's innovative spirit shines through every aspect of its cross-disciplinary programs and in its student-centered, professional faculty.

VIDEO: Watch BRENNAN! A New Musical, Created by Brennan Srisirikul Photo
Rhode Island College alum Brennan Srisirikul has shared his mockumentary musical short film titled Brennan! A New Musical, But Actually a Short Film, depicting the Asian ritual Wai.

A Summer with Berridge Programs- Nurturing Your Unique Artistic Voice Photo
With no in-person school or performance opportunities this year, young artists are looking towards summer theatre programs for the first opportunity to get back to doing what they love. 

From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)

Review: Nostalgic and Warm MARVELOUS WONDERETTES May Be the Cure For What Ails YouReview: Nostalgic and Warm MARVELOUS WONDERETTES May Be the Cure For What Ails You
November 16, 2022

There’s really nothing better for what ails you – particularly on a cold, wet and dreary Sunday afternoon – than a stroll down memory lane, thanks to a tuneful trip to the 1950s and ‘60s with The Marvelous Wonderettes, a nostalgic and enormously entertaining musical revue by Roger Bean.

Review: HADESTOWN 'Mesmerizes and Captivates' During Weeklong Stand at Nashville's TPACReview: HADESTOWN 'Mesmerizes and Captivates' During Weeklong Stand at Nashville's TPAC
November 2, 2022

Mesmerizing and captivating are just two of the words that might best describe Hadestown, the Tony Award-winning best musical of the truncated 2019-20 Broadway season, which is now commanding ovations of rapturous applause from adoring fans at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center during an eight-performance run through Sunday, November 6.

Review: Lauren Shouse's Sublime Direction of THE CAKE Provides Much Food for ThoughtReview: Lauren Shouse's Sublime Direction of THE CAKE Provides Much Food for Thought
October 28, 2022

Lauren Shouse’s directorial resume is quite the impressive one and over the years she’s helmed productions for Nashville Repertory Theatre that have been justifiably acclaimed both by audiences and critics alike. But despite the notoriety that seems to always accompany a “Lauren Shouse-directed production,” perhaps none is more deserved than the accolades that follow in the wake of The Cake, the latest entry on her already stellar list of shows.

Interview: Award-winning Author Lewis Kempfer On The Publication of 120 SEATS IN A BOILER ROOMInterview: Award-winning Author Lewis Kempfer On The Publication of 120 SEATS IN A BOILER ROOM
October 10, 2022

Tomorrow – October 11, 2022 – marks yet another momentous day in the history of Boiler Room Theatre, the late and lamented theater company that originally brought professional theater to The Factory at Franklin. 120 Seats in a Boiler Room: The Creation of a Courageous Professional Theater, the latest book by BRT co-founder Lewis Kempfer (who is an award-winning author in addition to his multi-hyphenate theater titles as director-producer-actor-designer), will be released by Amazon.

Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Inspiring and Astonishing SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIMReview: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Inspiring and Astonishing SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM
October 9, 2022

Since his death in 2021, Stephen Sondheim and his canon of work have justifiably been on the hearts and minds of theater people from around the world, with revivals, retrospectives and remembrances filling the calendars of an amazing range of companies paying homage to the master of contemporary musical theater. Just in time for a new season of productions highlighting the Nashville theater calendar, Belmont University Musical Theatre has chosen the aptly named musical revue Sondheim on Sondheim to launch a two-show semester that honors the genius of the master while showcasing the talents of its roster of musical theater majors who continue to add luster to the program’s reputation.