“Poor sounds permanent, broke can be fixed!” states Millie Dillmount to Miss Dorothy Brown, as she defends a lack of any financial status in Thoroughly Modern Millie, currently playing at Newport’s Dolman Theatre.
A small-town girl trying to make it big in 1920s New York City, plucky Millie’s life appears to go from one madcap scenario to the next via quirky, upbeat dance numbers. Within moments of been mugged for her hat, purse and a shoe (!), Millie literally sweeps her potential love-interest off his feet (by tripping him up), then ends up staying in a hotel, where girls are secretly been sold to the white-slave trade. Can Millie fix her broken life-style and is her plan to marry her wealthy boss a “thoroughly modern” idea?
Glass Ceiling Theatre’s follow up to Chicago, not only raises smiles, but also the bar, with fun song and dance routines, energetic storytelling and plenty of laughs along the way.
Claire Tucker has all the necessary feistiness as the lovable lead, Millie. Miss Tucker holds the audience attention with solo numbers Not For The Life of Me and Gimme Gimme, while adding much in the way of comic timing in her exchanges with Jordan Leigh’s Trevor Graydon and Rob Kelly’s Jimmy Smith.
Nicole Cleaton delivers a bubbly air to her portrayal of Californian actress, Miss Dorothy Brown. Combining innocence and vulnerability with a beautiful soprano, Miss Cleaton has a magical stage presence which comes alive as she joins forces in song and dance with Claire Tucker on How The Other Half Lives.
Rob Kelly is smooth, paper-clip salesman, Jimmy Smith, showcasing all the required hallmarks of the leading love interest, while holding his own as a soloist for What Do I Need With Love? Jordan Leigh steps out as self-absorbed businessman, Trevor Graydon, whose highlight is a tongue-twisting rap-style diction during The Speed Test.
Zoe Southcott is Mrs Meers, the evil owner of the Hotel Priscilla and leader of an oriental white slavery ring. Miss Southcott blends elements of comedy into Meers’ sinister persona and develops a hilarious on-stage rapport with her Oriental henchmen, Jake Aston’s Bun Foo and Daniel Butler’s Ching Ho. This culminates in a vaudevillian-style performance of Muqin (Me Mammy).
I also enjoyed Madison Hone’s portrayal of aging diva, Muzzy Van Hossmere, whose renditions of Only In New York and Long as I’m Here With You captured echoes of Hollywood blond bombshell glitz. Another favourite performer was Jessica Doolan as the enigmatic and unpredictable Miss Flannery, who controlled her workforce of typists with comedic gestures via a hint of martial arts moves.
Colourful in style and presentation, Thoroughly Modern Millie captures the essence of its 1920s setting with art deco and backdrop graphics. There’s also specific use of spotlights on solo numbers which capture the characters isolation. There is a sense of ease and openness to ensemble numbers such as Forget about The Boy which sees the girls break away from their wire phones and typewriters to perform a fun tap routine.
Glass Ceiling Directors, Emily John and Vicci Bryant, along with ensemble cast and musicians, have made an excellent achievement bringing this rarely seen example of Millie Magic to the Dolman Theatre stage.
Don’t miss this thoroughly enjoyable show at Newport’s Dolman Theatre on its final performance on September 7.