Sassy “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Wows ‘Em!
By Cari Lynn Pace Member, SF Bay Area TheaterCritics Circle, Adjudicator for TheatreBayArea
It’s a classic story told in the time of 1922, when women were first entering the workforce and had dreams of self-propelled success. Enthusiastic Millie arrives inNew York City, fresh from the farm and ready to take a big bite out of life, and hopefully find herself a rich husband. Millie doesn’t give up her dreams, even when she’s mugged and left penniless. She gets her hair stylishly bobbed, finds a job at a company headed by a handsome bachelor, and makes friends with the young actresses at her seedy hotel. No one knows that her evil landlady abducts attractive women for export abroad. Local favorite Daniela Innocenti Beem casts a hilarious turn as the snarky proprietress. The plot is frothy, silly, and funny, and delighted audiences immediately when it opened on Broadway in 2002, winning six Tony awards.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” bursts with songs, tap dancing, over-the-top characters, and yummy period costumes by Tracy Hinman Sigrist. Director Craig A. Miller serves up this musical like a juicy bowl of fresh-cut fruit topped with whipped cream. There are so many outstanding performances, starting with Rebekah Pearson in the title role and Anthony Guzman as the cavalier yet unemployed heartthrob. It’s astonishing that Pearson, who fell and broke her wrist during rehearsal one week before opening night, can deliver such graceful gestures and keep her balance while singing and dancing in her arm cast. She relates how she was getting her cast put on and urged the doctor “Could you please hurry it up? I have to get back to rehearsal!” That’s truly the “Millie” spunk!
Another standout performance includes Evan Attwood as Millie’s clueless boss. He rattles off an amazing “Speed Test” that sparks spontaneous applause, particularly when Millie matches him word to word. The music is from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patter Song” but the lyrics are all cleverly new. Attwood really outshines himself in Act II when he swoons to the charms of Millie’s dainty friend, Miss Dorothy, a blonde fromCaliforniacoyishly enacted by Nicole Thysell. It’s all too delicious!
The office stenography pool (which flourished until the advent of voice recorders) offers a bounty of 1920′s beauties kept largely in line by Miss Flannery. Of course Miss Flannery can’t keep these modern girls from tap dancing or doing theCharleston, although she might try. Shari Hopkinson Cohen is perfectly cast as the cranky and domineering office manager. You can tell she really relishes her curmudgeon role, and deservedly so.
The surprises keep coming: Joseph Favalora and Natalie Herman play the Chinese henchmen who work as slaves to Innocenti Beem’s evil landlady. They long to bring their mother toAmerica, they sing a derivation of the Al Jolson song “My Mammy” entirely in Chinese. The superscreen above the stage flashes the translation and the audience just cracks up. Neither Favalora (who also did the show’s choreography) nor Herman speak Chinese. ”We recorded the song, played it slowly, then kept singing it faster until we had it right.” Favalora laughs. “One of my Asian friends who attended opening night said it sounded perfect.”
A generously talented cast completes the ensemble, with Tina Lloyd Meals conducting the orchestra, in this thoroughly delightful performance for all ages.
WHAT: “Thoroughly Modern Millie” directed by Craig A. Miller, Musical Direction by Tina Lloyd Meals, Choreography by Joseph Favalora, based on the movie starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore
WHEN: Now through May 25th
WHERE: G.K. Hardt Theater,6th Street Playhouse,52 West Sixth Street,Santa Rosa,CA95401
COST: $23 – $35
INFORMATION: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or (707) 523-4185