by Arlene Price Kohler

Moorestown Theater Company is presenting THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, the award winning 2002 musical based on the 1967 award winning film version, which in turn was based on the book by Richard Henry Morris. Whew. The film starred Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing along with Noriyuki  “Pat” Morita (of “The Karate Kid”  fame) as Bun Foo.  Like the film, the musical version takes place in 1922, a time period historically referred to as “The Roaring 20s”.  A time when conventional mores were being challenged.  A time of Gertrude Stein and Sigmund Freud. A time when skirts got shorter, hair got bobbed and the high collared Victorian necklines got lowered. A new musical form know as Jazz emerged.  THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE treads lightly in  the social fabric  of the day but it is evident as Millie Dumont, the title character arrives in New York City to pursue her dream of being a successful,  independent woman.  What ensues is a great adventure.   So, in case you don’t know the plot line I will try not to reveal more.

Moorestown Theater Company is quite the little gem. Mark Morgan, Carol Ann Murray and Bev Bennett founded the group in 2003.  In addition to presenting musicals, (quite a few of them each year) they have participated in many Moorestown Business Association holiday events. Thus, they are a recognizable group in Moorestown. They bill themselves as the place “where families have fun doing musical theater together”.  On stage and off this seems to be true.  There is a nice camaraderie within this theater group and it extends to the audience as well. In this production there are some cute local references and an “insider” joke about the number 6 (who knows there might be more I missed).  When the producer/director/set designer Mark Morgan appears onstage as Mama, the cast and audience alike are delighted.

Mark Morgan does a great job of handling this cast of 45 (lots of whom he says are  newcomers to the stage, though I would not have thought so). No one is looking awkward up there. The sets are clever, the costumes by Thom Sirkot even more so and the choreography by Tamlyn Brooke Orlando is some of the  most lively I have seen.  She is careful not to overwhelm the less experienced dancers while having the more experienced  handle some entertaining and interesting moves. Very polished; well done dancers!  I  have a feeling there’s been a lot of tap dancing going on in Moorestown.  I especially liked ‘The Speed Test’: clever and well executed. Evelyn Ebo as the lady with pearls moves with exceptional grace and was just lovely to watch.

Muzzy Van Hossmere (Carol Ann Murray) and Ensemble in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.

The lead role of Millie has been double cast as director Mark Morgan said both candidates were ‘just too good’.  I got to see Laura Orlando, who did a great job.  She was very vivacious on stage. With good movement skills and facial expressions Orlando possesses a great voice which she knows how to use.   She was well supported by Matt Becker, who has a nice voice and an easy, charming manner on stage.  Rachel Smith as Gloria, one of the Hotel Priscilla girls caught my eye every time she was on stage.  Good acting skill, great facial expressions, real nice dance moves. I hope to see more from her in the future. Debi Nanni Zacher seems to be having a wonderful time as Mrs. Meers volleying  vocally between fake mandarin and ‘new yourk’ with ease.  Jim Guevara and Dante Hale  as her sidekicks Ching Ho and Bun Foo bring us some comic relief. Very clever place to put the subtitles. Jaclyn Biancaniello as Dorothy, with her  lovely operatic voice, lends just the right naivete to the character. Gina Peti as Mrs. Flannery is just plain fun to watch. Rick Williams plays Trevor Grayson, VI.  He gets to display his comedic side and does a great job.  He is obviously an audience favorite. Speaking of favorites, Carol Ann Murray as Muzzy is just splendid.  I love her powerhouse voice. When there is this level of talent in a cast it is infectious and to me a part of why this show is so successful.

It is always an added bonus when you have the great visual effects a good costumer can create.  It is a fairly large cast with a lot of costume changes. Thom Sirkot comes through splendidly. There is a general cohesiveness to the show both in texture and tone. Of note are the steno girls and boys, the sequined outfits in the Cafe Society number and everything Millie wore from start to finish, but especially Sirkot’s wonderful take on the Gimmee Gimmee red fringed dress. I applaud the creativity and workmanship that went into this one.

The orchestra was perfection. Thank you all for a wonderful musical evening!

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics by Dick Scanlan
Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan
November 15-24, 2013
Moorestown Theater Company
at Upper Elementary School
625 Borton Landing Road
Moorestown, NJ 08057
856 778 8357

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