Haddonfield Plays & Players has come up with the ideal entertainment for summertime. Now you can beat the heat with a refreshingly lively and feather-light musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie.
In a reversal of the usual process of basing a movie on a Broadway show, this multi-award-winning show is based on a 1967 movie musical of the same name, which starred Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing.
Millie is a spirited take-off on the “flapper era” of the 1920s with a delightfully implausible plot. Millie Dillmount (Lauren Parsons), a small-town girl from Kansas, arrives in New York City with the firm intention of marrying a rich man, and never mind love. She plans to do this by getting a job in an office where the boss is a wealthy bachelor. But soon after she is transformed into a “thoroughly modern” flapper, she is mugged and loses not only her purse but her hat, scarf and one shoe. In desperation, she trips the first man who comes along to ask for help. He is Jimmy Smith (William Connell), whom she will meet again many times. He advises her to go home. She rejects his advice, determined to pursue her dream. She checks into a hotel, not knowing that the proprietress, Mrs. Meers (Emily Wetzel) runs a white slavery ring. Any girl who is alone in the world is given a cup of tea (drugged, of course) and shipped off to a house of ill fame in the Orient. This almost happens to Dorothy (Annie Claude Chartrand), a girl whom Millie befriends. But Ching Ho (David Mooney), one of the young Chinese brothers who reluctantly work for Mrs. Meers, is immediately smitten with her and lets her escape. Meanwhile, Millie meets Jimmy again, and love begins to blossom. Dorothy visits Millie in the office, where the boss, Trevor Graydon (Fernando Gonzalez) also falls for her (Dorothy, that is), to the tune of “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” and “Falling in Love with Someone.” What will this do to Millie’s plans? Will she finally settle for true love? Which man will Dorothy choose? There are many more bizarre happenings before these questions are answered, plus some surprises in store for our heroine.
The cast, under technical director Ed Doyle and artistic director Matt Reher, is excellent. Parsons, in addition to being a fine singer and dancer, makes Millie appealing despite her gold-digging ways, and Connell is a perfect match for her as Jimmy. Dorothy and Trevor are played with broad strokes. Chartrand is all sweet (but not too bright) innocence as Dorothy, and Gonzalez is hilarious as Trevor. Weitzel is properly sinister as Mrs. Meers. Mooney as Ching Ho and Anthony Nimmo as Bun Foo delighted the audience with their (presumably) authentic Chinese dialogue, accompanied by supertitles. They are not really villainous, just trying to make enough money to bring their mother from China. The audience also loved Aimee Miller as Miss Flannery, the tyrannical head stenographer. But the standout performance was by Toni Richards as flamboyant Muzzy Van Hossmere, a “diva ex machina” who helps to expose Mrs. Meers and provides the aforesaid surprises. The supporting actors, singers and dancers perform with great skill and precision. Special kudos to the production staff and to all who made this highly entertaining show possible.
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics by Dick Scanlan
Directed by Ed Doyle and Matt Reher
July 12-August 4, 2012
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 E. Atlantic Avenue
Haddonfield, NJ 08033