BWW Previews: THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at Theatre Baton Rouge
Singing, dancing, and hijinks ensue in Theatre Baton Rouge's 73rd season opener THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.
The toe-tapping production should serve to be especially impressive as it is not only the season opener but will be the first time the Young Actors program graces the TBR main stage. And Director Jack Lampert is absolutely thrilled about it.
"Jenny [Ballard] and the board of governors realized what we were doing and gave us this golden opportunity," Lampert said. "We have young orchestra members in the pit and actors on the main stage for the first time."
The Young Actors program began in 2010 with doing junior versions of classic theatre. That first audition had only around 20 people but number that has steadily increased over the years. For the past five years, the program has produced fully realized musicals using young actors and young orchestra musicians. Over 100 young actors auditioned for MILLIE, and the cast sees 43 young actors between the ages of 8 and 18 along with adult mentors.
"They are here because they want to learn theatre, and that is what my passion is about is teaching these kids the love of theatre," Lampert said. "And if they do it for one year, or they do it for 10 years, and they choose to do it for the rest of their lives, they've had a wonderful experience learning what theatre really is."
Based on the 1967 Academy Award-winning film, MILLIE takes you back to the height of the Jazz Age in New York, when "moderns" were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce, and rewriting the rules of love. The story centers on a young girl named Millie Dillmount who moves from her tiny hometown in Kansas to New York in the 1920s intent on succeeding in a career as well as finding a wealthy husband. Things seem perfect when she gets hired as a stenographer for an eligible bachelor businessman. Her plan goes awry when she finds herself falling for a fun young guy named Jimmy who is just getting by money-wise. The Tony Award-winning MILLIE is to be considered a triple thread show, with actors, not only having to act but also sing and dance.
"And there's a lot of dancing," Lampert said.
This will be the second time Lampert has directed MILLIE, having done it previously in while he lived in Chicago.
"I love the music; I love the period that it's in and I just love the humor of the story," Lampert said. "It's a love story; it's one of those zany romantic musicals. It's a show that makes me smile all the time, so I know it's going to make the audience will feel the same way."
The show stars Annie Blanchard as Millie, with Hayden Ponjuan as Jimmy. Rounding out the remaining cast is Hannah Tanib, Nicole Mann, Brooke Bell, Caroline Feduccia, Brent Thredgill, Sydney Mistretta, Hannah Wilkerson, Torie LaCaze, Ashley Stevens, Hannah Bourgeois, Abby Robbins, Natalie Feduccia, Gwen Roland, Jules Culotta, Brooke Weber, and Phenix Ward.
"I have a wonderful cast of 43 actors who are giving it their all," Lampert said. "Their commitment is unbelievable. Annie and Hayden have wonderful chemistry and really feed off each other."
While directing the show, Lampert provided how proud he is of his cast, citing that his older actors serve as great role models while singing and dancing their hearts out.
"They're wonderful role models for the younger people," Lampert said. "They don't have any ego problems at all; they treat everybody in the cast equally, which is wonderful. It's really a wonderful experience for everyone."
MILLIE will run from August 16-19, 2018. Performances will be Thursday-Saturday night (7:30 PM) and Sunday afternoon (2:00 PM) on TBR's Main Stage. Adult tickets are $30; Student tickets are $19.