“Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Goodspeed Opera House
Goodspeed Opera House is off to a dandy start this season with its delightful production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Based on the 1967 film that starred Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, as well as, of course, the 2002 Broadway musical version that turned Sutton Foster into a star, “Millie” at Goodspeed moves fleetingly throughout. What’s more, the cast lives up to the memory of the original Broadway actors, and, in a couple cases, almost overshadows them. Denis Jones is the expert director/choreographer of this “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and his work here is as good as what he accomplished a couple seasons ago in Goodspeed’s production of “Holiday Inn.” Add in a bright set and vivid costumes and Goodspeed Opera House has a definite hit in its presentation of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan are responsible for the book of the Broadway version of “Millie,” with Jeanine Tesori (music) and Scanlan (lyrics) providing the new songs for the show (tunes such as the title number and a couple others are from the original film). To my mind, the Broadway musical version of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” has always worked pretty smoothly, though it really needs some genuine sparkle to shine as much as the 1967 film and to get Julie Andrews out of your mind. Goodspeed Opera House’s staging of “Millie” is fortunate to have found the ideal Millie Dilmount in the talented Taylor Quick. This actress can tap up a storm, belt her songs to the rafters, as well as exude a good deal of charm and wit. And, with a performer like Quick lighting up the stage in the central role, everything else in the production just seems to fall into place.
As the guy that pursues Millie throughout the show, Jimmy Smith, Dan DeLuca is a solid leading man with a stellar voice and he commands attention every time he comes onstage. Also shining are the sweet Samantha Sturm as Miss Dorothy, the divine Romana Keller as Muzzy Van Hossmere, and even Lucia Spina makes her mark in the small role of Miss Flannery (love those elbows!) In the rather un-politically correct roles of Ching Ho and Bun Foo, played, respectively, by James Seol and Christopher Shin, both actors do well and get all the laughs in the script, even if their scenes can get a bit silly and potentially offensive.
Playing Mrs. Meers, the woman who employs these two men, Loretta Ables Sayre is just terrific and almost makes you forget the original actress, Harriet Harris, from the Broadway production. Sayre puts over her songs splendidly, as well as wringing all the humor out of her lines. Also, she looks great, dressed somewhat like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Blvd.” (Gregory Gale is responsible for the glittery and eye-catching costumes), and she holds the stage with finesse. I saw Loretta Ables Sayre play Bloody Mary (to wonderful effect) in the 2008 Broadway revival of “South Pacific” and she is just as good here.
As another performer who nearly outdoes his original Broadway counterpart, Edward Watts is just swell as Millie’s boss, Trevor Graydon. Watts played Superman in the City Center Encores! production of “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman” about four or five years ago, and he is just as square-jawed, handsome, and heroic in his “Millie” role. Actor Marc Kudish created this character in the Broadway production, and he was quite good in the role, but Watts brings just a little bit more of an understated appeal to Trevor Graydon, and it shows.
The entire company of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” dazzles in the big musical numbers, especially in a happy tap-dance rendition of Millie’s attempt to pass a typing test to get a job. Scenic designer Paul Tate dePoo III has provided the enormously attractive set, with some wonderful set pieces being pulled on during various scenes. Rob Denton is responsible for the exquisite lighting design, which is particularly effective during the numerous times that the Millie and her friends ride the elevator. And, with the fine musical director Michael O’Flaherty leading the zesty orchestra throughout, Goodspeed Opera House’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” truly has all the elements for a winner of a show.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues performances at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT through July 2, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.goodspeed.org or call the box office at 860-873-8668.
Photo: Taylor Quick (center) with the cast
Photo by Diane Sobolewski