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“Thoroughly Modern Millie” is a fun little Valentine’s confection of a musical, a girl-meets-boy story set amid the whirl of flapper-era Manhattan, with a soundtrack of cleverly written songs and jazzy numbers that pretty much dare you not to tap your foot.
Based on the 1967 movie starring Julie Andrews, the Tony Award-winning show tells the story of Millie Dillmount, a wide-eyed girl from Kansas who arrives in New York with nothing but a suitcase and a ticket home, which she rips in two just before she gets her hair bobbed and her purse stolen. Within a week, though, she has a job, a new best friend, a landlady who’s involved in a secret plot to sell pretty young girls into white slavery in Hong Kong, a rich boss she’s determined to marry, and a handsome-but-poor guy friend she’s equally determined not to fall in love with. It’s a predictable plot, but the dialog’s fun, and not above poking fun at the cliches as it indulges in them, and this production’s Charleston-inspired dance numbers and art deco sets did a great job of evoking the era.
Alex Ellis, a recent college graduate according to her program bio, played Millie creditably. Her voice was strong and expressive, although distinctly nasal, and it’s saying something that I could understand almost every word she said and sang.
That wasn’t the case with perhaps the show’s strongest singer, Kriste Belt, who played the older-and-wiser stage star Muzzy Van Hossmere. Belt has a fantastic voice, but most of what she sang Monday night was at best difficult to understand, as was one entire scene of dialogue. This may have been more a problem with amplification, however; diction seemed to disappear for every performer past a certain volume level.
As Miss Dorothy Brown, Millie’s best friend, Courtney Elise Brown showed off a beautiful soprano, and Adam Zelasko, as Jimmy Smith, had a fine leading-man voice.
The night’s biggest laughs, though, went to Arthur Kwan and Fang Du as the two Chinese brothers who help the evil landlady Mrs. Meers (Elizabeth T. Murff) smuggle her young captives off to Hong Kong.