In the 1920's, it seemed as though everything was changing: music, crime, women. All of these transformations and more occur right before your eyes in W.T. Woodson's fun and flare filled production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Written by Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlan, and Richard Morris, Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 film of the same title, which was previously based on the 1956 English musical Chrysanthemum. It premiered on Broadway in 2002, and won 6 Tony awards including Best Musical. The story follows protagonist Millie as she navigates her thoroughly modern life as an aspiring actress and newly-turned flapper in 1920's New York City.
Leading the cast of this buoyant production was Hannah Black as Millie. With incredibly impressive dancing and confident deliveries of powerful songs, Black truly showed each and every twist and turn of Millie's journey to wealth and fame with genuine emotion. She also created impeccable chemistry with other characters such as the clever and charming Jimmy (Eric Tysarczyk), the sweet and innocent newcomer to the Hotel Priscilla for aspiring actresses Miss Dorothy (Marlaina Horewitz), and the malicious and sly so-called manager of the hotel Mrs. Meers (Sara Willcox). While each of these characters was excellent when sharing the stage, they also commanded the platform while on their own with great comedic timing and admirable vocals in the songs "What Do I Need With Love," "How the Other Half Lives," and "They Don't Know."
Hannah Black's intricate choreography was mesmerizing, whether it was classic dance moves from the 20's such as the Charleston, dazzling lifts, or complex tap routines. All of the numbers with Black's creative choreography kept the audience smiling and gasping with awe and delight.
The technical aspects of this sunny production were just as bright and cheerful as the show itself. The lights, operated by Nathan Cain and Kelly Ward, were expertly chosen to consistently correspond to different themes in each of the scenes. For example, pink lights were exuded during characters' discoveries of love and moments of romance. The use of projections, executed by Sara Short, were incorporated mainly to display English translations of the Chinese that was spoken throughout the show, and sung exquisitely in the song "Muqin." This was delivered by the henchmen working for Mrs. Meers, Ching Ho and Bun Foo played by Gin Choi and Dylan Dipasupil, respectively. Another beautiful technical piece that was integrated into the show was a very clean and elegant cut out of the New York City skyline. This added a simple yet captivating touch to the set.
The impeccable charisma and comedy that this production's cast brought to the stage had the audience saying gimme gimme some more of the sweet mysteries of life that W.T. Woodson's performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie never failed to provide.
Osbourn Park Theatre Arts
Picture the Roaring 20s: lively music, flapper dresses, and bootlegged alcohol. W.T. Woodson truly lived up to the excitement and charm of the jazz age in their production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie." With the book and lyrics written by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, the show was adapted from the original 1967 farce musical starring Julie Andrews; it ran on Broadway from April 2002 to June 2004 with Sutton Foster in the title role.
The show begins when small town Kansas girl Millie Dillmount moves to New York City in hopes of landing a job and a husband -- her rich boss Mr. Graydon. She unexpectedly falls for the poor salesman Jimmy Smith, and becomes close friends with Miss Dorothy, the well-to-do girl next door. All the while, the scheming hotel owner Mrs. Meers is selling orphaned girls into "white slavery," targeting Miss Dorothy throughout the show.
Hannah Black did an outstanding job of portraying Millie's sassy characteristics, most notably while she and her friends were dancing the night away in a speakeasy. Black executed dance moves with grace and careful precision as she tapped in the elevator and swung with Jimmy, played by Eric Tysarczyk. Tysarczyk gave an extremely convincing performance through his many gestures and facial expressions, especially when he pantomimed his journey to get to Millie via scaling the exterior of the 20th story of her office building. His vocals were powerful, sweet, and emotional – truly reflecting Jimmy's conflicted feelings as he fell for Millie in songs like "What Do I Need With Love."
Sara Willcox was magnificent in her rendition of the sinister Mrs. Meers. She adopted the crotchety voice and mannerisms of an old woman, and produced an extremely comedic character. Willcox's vocals were powerful as she snapped in "They Don't Know" and bribed workers Ching Ho (Gin Choi) and Bun Foo (Dylan Dipasupil) in "Muqin." Choi and Dipasupil had lovely voices as they sang in Chinese, great physical presentation of their characters, and a wonderful dynamic that made true their brotherly love. As Miss Dorothy, Marlaina Horewitz used strong acting choices to make it clear that she was playing an adult character. Horewitz sang in a style that was true to the show's time period, truly emulating singers of the 20s.
The many dance numbers were choreographed by Hannah Black, and were fitting for the Charleston style of the 1920s. As Millie typed, she tap danced along to symbolize the clacking of the keys while ensemble members formed a stunning kick line. Colorful lighting, by Nathan Cain and Kelly Ward, helped bring the mood of the show into stronger focus: pink as Millie and Jimmy realized their love for each other, and red as Mrs. Meers had intense moments. The WT Woodson Pit Orchestra did a phenomenal job of setting the scene; their skillfully played score told a story before the show had even started.
The cast and crew of W.T. Woodson High School's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" figured out the "sweet mystery of life:" a lively show full of bright colors, upbeat songs, and romance.