Skirts are getting shorter, bobs are getting sharper, and women are getting bolder... This is 1922!
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a quirky classic musical that follows Millie Dillmount on her journey to an advantageous marriage, and love's got nothing to do with it! While the show dates itself with its insensitivity in addressing otherwise serious issues (such as human trafficking), the music is toe-tapping and riotous.
Director Jim Padovano has struck gold with his casting - particularly, the success of the four main lovers. The chemistry of the quartet is palpable.
George Marn, Megan Miller, and the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie. All photos courtesy of Carroll Studios.
Megan Miller plays the title character with an infectious charisma which carries the show. Her bright tone and boisterous delivery are a perfect fit for the modern woman. Miller then is a lovely foil to Millie's best friend, Miss Dorothy Brown. Ashley Sprangers brings both a rich, classical sound and a comedic ditziness to the role, making the wealthy ingenue the source of some of the show's strongest laugh lines.
The duo is paired romantically with Jimmy Smith (Nate C. Groonwald) and Mr. Trevor Graydon (George Marn). Groonwald's Jimmy has an arrogant swagger, properly suited to further fuel Millie's perpetual flame. His voice easily fills the tenor role.
Marn, then, has a swooning baritone sound, which melds well with Sprangers in duets. The humor of the script's melodrama is maintained by their grand vocals in a show with an otherwise modern sound.
Rounding out the comedic side plot are Mrs. Meers, Ching-Ho, and Bun Foo. The use of Chinese with projected translations captures the essence of foreign films. Delaney Schlake-Kruse plays out an unexpected romance with absolute hilarity. Meers then balances out the slapstick henchman with a cynical slink. Padovano's choice to cast Keith Smith as the landlady plays into the overall absurdity of the show.
Ashley Levells and the company of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The set, unfortunately, doesn't quite match the integrity of the rest of the performance. Conceptually, it is a series of proscenium arches, growing smaller to force perspective as they move upstage. The blue is stunning, and the detailing is nuanced. The addition of street signs, changing for each scene, brings audiences into the New York setting. Marissa Abbott's design has all the right elements. However, each of the arches cuts off in the center, leaving a large centerstage gap. The result is distracting, and looks unfinished.
The show's crude themes of "white slavery" are crucial to the plot, and stick out as a societal sore thumb over 50 years since the initial 1967 film. However, Waukesha Civic Theatre justifies the performance by partnering with and accepting donations for Wisconsin's own Exploit No More, a non-profit dedicated to ending child trafficking in the Greater Milwaukee area.
With iconic numbers such as "Forget About the Boy", "Not For the Life of Me", and of course, "Gimme Gimme", Thoroughly Modern Millie has a place in the hearts of musical theatre lovers everywhere. Padovano's direction captures all of the vitality of the 20s, while adding their own take on the tale for a modern audience. The show runs at Waukesha Civic Theatre through April 14th.