Pittsburgh CLO closes their latest summer season with Thoroughly Modern Millie, the 2002 Broadway musical adaptation of the 1967 movie version. That Broadway production is remembered as the debut of Sutton Foster and for somehow managing to win the Tony for Best Musical.
I’ve grown to like the show a bit more after repeated views, but it’s still true you’re in for an evening of some of the pinkest, frilliest nonsense imaginable.
Millie leaves boring Kansas for glittering Jazz Age Manhattan. Being thoroughly modern she plans to work for a wealthy businessman and marry him. Until she lands her bankroll, however, she has to bunk at a sketchy hotel run by Mrs. Meers … an unsavory character using the hotel as a front. Young women check into Mrs. Meers’ establishment but some leave out the back door, gagged, chloroformed and sold into white slavery.
Thoroughly Modern Millie continues through August 12. Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Downtown. 412/456-6666.
As is the way of musicals, Millie bumps into (literally) a young man named Jimmy, he’s a charmer and she’s charmed … but he’s broke! Complications multiple when her rich boss (Trevor Graydon) falls for Millie’s friend, a young woman named Miss Dorothy. And it goes from pot to worse when Millie spots Jimmy coming out of Miss Dorothy’s hotel room in the middle of the night.
Did I mention there’s this wealthy widow popping in every now and again to sing a couple of numbers and give Millie love advice?
Like I said, it’s silliness to an almost exponential degree. Dick Scanlan wrote this adaptation along with lyrics to tunes from Jeanine Tesori; it’s a pastiche of a score feature those new songs, some stuff from the 1967 movie and numbers adapted from Tchaikovsky, Arthur Sullivan and Victor Herbert.
And somehow it all works. Or, at least, it did for me when I saw it opening night. Charles Repole directs – with choreography from Alex Sanchez – a powerhouse of an ensemble singing and dancing their way through the evening like rocket leaving the launch pad. This is a dance-heavy show with lots of tap and they couldn’t have been more enjoyable.
Laurie Veldheer turns charm into something almost radioactive playing, singing and dancing the role of Millie with precision, talent and unlimited delight. Bobby Conte Thorton, as Jimmy, is every inch an old-time song-and-dance man and his solo turns are luminous.
One thing I do really love about Millie is its wealth of character parts providing great performers a chance to shine.
Say hello to Leslie Uggams as Muzzy, the wealthy window. She takes center stage with her two big numbers and demonstrates exactly why she’s a show biz legend.
And speaking of legends – Pittsburgh’s gift to the Broadway musical, Lenora Nemetz, is playing Mrs. Meers with the comedic genius for which she’s famous. Nemetz is having a ditzy, daffy party of lunatic fun and inviting us to join in.
Jessica Fontana and Paul Schaefer are the goofy Dorothy and Graydon and find comedy gold in their intense, deathless love. Meanwhile Kirsten Wyatt, Sam Simahk and Colin Miyamoto get some big, big laughs in their supporting roles.
Thoroughly Modern Millie doesn’t try to be anything it’s not … and what it is is just a hell of a lot of fun.