Thoroughly Modern Millie
nytheatre.com review by Heather J. Violanti
February 1, 2009
Broadway bows in Brooklyn once more with The Gallery Players' current production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, a shining example of verve and ingenuity.
Every performance is heartfelt. The eight-piece band plays Jeanine Tesori's eclectic score with brio, while the cast exudes enough energy to light the Tri-State area for at least a week. Sweet-voiced Alison Luff makes a winning Millie, the girl from Kansas who comes to New York in pursuit of modernity, circa 1922. Luff effortlessly juxtaposes Millie's earnestness with goofy sensuality. Her flirtatious interpretation of punctuation in "The Speed Test," the song where Millie must show how fast she can take down a letter, is a showstopper.
David Rosetti is endearing as Jimmy Smith, Millie's rakish nemesis turned unexpected love interest, while Andy Planck brings comic operatic bombast to Trevor Graydon, Millie's self-important boss. In the role of Miss Dorothy Brown, Millie's angelic best friend gifted with a mop of golden curls and a soaring soprano, Amy Grass suggests Jeanette MacDonald by way of Shirley Temple. Debbie Thais Evans lends an inspiring gospel belt to her solos as Muzzy van Hossmere, the wealthy matron with a heart o' gold who tells Millie she could live on green glass as easily as emeralds.
Roy Flores and Jay Paranada make the most of Ching Ho and Bun Foo, the bumbling Chinese henchmen who, in a tacky subplot, help the failed actress Mrs. Meers kidnap young ingénues and sell them into "white slavery."
Ann Bartek's ingenious set, dominated by an orange Manhattan skyline, creates a clever multi-purpose playing space. Bartek divides the stage into two levels: a wide downstage playing area and an upstage ledge that houses the orchestra and cleverly transforms into the rooftop where Jimmy dances with Millie.
Director Neal J. Freeman orchestrates the scene transitions with a seamless fluidity that puts the original overproduced 2002 Broadway production to shame. One moment, the downstage is a busy New York street, bustling with dancing chorus members. The next moment, it's a hotel hallway, demarcated by a doorframe and a lithe bellhop who expertly unfurls a runner stretching the entire length of the stage. Then, in a flash, it's an office, replete with typewriters on podiums and a wheel-on desk.
Megan Q. Dudley's costumes begin with a clash of color and evolve into gorgeous exemplars of sequined flapper glamour. The sparkling gowns Millie and friends wear to the speakeasy, and later, to Muzzy's big party, drew appreciative gasps from the audience.
Katharine Pettit's lively choreography is infectious. Her skillful positioning of the dancers makes the stage look bigger than it really is. In all, The Gallery Players production of Millie is worthwhile.