BWW Review: Hot Off the Press! THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE is a Hit!
Beat the drums because Thoroughly Modern Millie is a hit! As the nightcap to Pittsburgh CLO's 2018 summer season, Millie is nothing short of a flapper girl's dream and a theatergoer's desire.
Thoroughly Modern Millie, the 2002 Best Musical Tony Award recipient starring Sutton Foster, defines what it means to be a golden age musical in the modern day; with updated music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) and lyrics by Dick Scanlan, the stage musical brings the 1967 movie-musical starring Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Channing to life in the most vibrant of ways.
Millie Dillmount (Laurie Veldheer), a country mouse from Kansas, embarks on her New York City quest to become a "modern" - short skirts, bobbed hair, and a plan to get rich by marring her boss.
She finds herself in a New York minute robbed and single shoed. After tripping him purposely accidentally, Millie meets Jimmy Smith (Bobby Conte Thornton) on the street. He gives her the address for the Hotel Pracilla, a hotel for struggling actresses run by Mrs. Meers (Lenora Nemetz).
In addition to managing the hotel, Mrs. Meers, a struggling actress herself, operates a string of white slavery that preys on orphaned girls staying at her hotel. "Sad to be all alone in the world," is Mrs. Meers' trademark line, but what's even more trademark is Ms. Nemetz's dynamic singing in the role. She's the antagonist you love to love.
Also staying at the hotel is Miss Dorothy Brown (Jessica Fontana). Coming from the privileged few, Miss Dorothy tries her hand at "How the Other Half Lives." Her and Millie soon become close acquaintances, matching each other with talent and fervor. Ms. Fontana, with a sweet and heavenly voice, and Ms. Veldheer, with a robust and passionate one, compliment each other as leading ladies.
The two eventually accompany Jimmy to a party of Muzzy Van Hossmere (Leslie Uggams), a world-renowned singer. Graced with her elegance and royalty, the Pittsburgh crowd cheered for the revered and acclaimed Ms. Uggams in her numbers "Only in New York" and "Long as I'm Here with You."
Although slightly outnumbered, the men of the cast were swell, just swell as well. Mr. Thornton is as charming in song as he is in looks, catching the eyes of Millie on more than one occasion. Mr. Thornton serenaded the audience with "What Do I Need with Love?" and "I Turned the Corner."Unfortunately for him, he is not Millie's boss Trevor Graydon (Paul Schaefer). Mr. Schaefer's humor and poise make him the perfect zany actor to be completely oblivious to Millie's "brute force" attempts at seducing him.
Visually, the show seemed to have fallen just shy of mesmerizing. The sets were enough, and some costumes were more ravishing than others, but for the roaring 20s, the extravagance and grandeur seemed to flail. At times, even the choreography and dialogue seemed a bit under rehearsed, but with passion, emotion, and plenty of dance numbers, the production as a whole was far from compromised.
This production of Millie, despite some minor shortcomings, is a fun and delightful theatrical experience. The show exudes the big band sound of the 20's, and Ms. Veldheer certainly illuminates the material with the leading role. In her show stopper "Gimme Gimme," Ms. Veldheer shines in her sequin red dress and dazzles with zeal. If only to see that number, the show would be worth the cost of a ticket, but I promise you won't be disappointed with your decision to spend an evening at the Benedum this week.
To see or not to see score: 7/9; Recommended Show
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh CLO