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09May

Thoroughly Modern Millie - Heritage High School - Leesburg, Virginia - May 6, 2017

Claire Poirier

Loudoun Valley High School

 

The allure of prohibition. The new version of the modern woman in vibrant flapper dresses. And of course, a secret Chinese human trafficking ring picking off innocent orphans. How do all the elements combine to produce a tap-tastic masterpiece of dance and song? The dazzling spectacle of the roaring twenties can only be perfectly captured in the eye-catching performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie at Heritage High School.

 

Thoroughly Modern Millie sauntered to the Broadway stage in 2002, where it went on to win six Tony Awards. The story chases the young and hopeful Millie Dillmount, who basks in the delight of what it is to be the perfect 1920's woman, while completing her master plan of marrying her boss. Problems begin to arise when she checks into the Hotel Priscilla, which is secretly a cover for an organization that sells young girls to a slavery ring in China. Can Millie stay on her path, solve the mystery, and tear herself away from a budding love affair with one Jimmy Smith to keep her picture-perfect vision of what her life as a modern girl is supposed to be?

 

The attention to detail in the impressive dance numbers made the songs a marvelous sight. Songs like "Forget About the Boy" and the dance break in the interior of the speakeasy were polished, poised, and chock full of techniques that are incredibly hard to master. The numbers carried energy throughout the entirety of the show, and each character brought individual zest and flavor to the dance that made each song something new and exciting to watch.

 

The jewel of the show was none other than Millie Dillmount herself (Emma Leone). Leone's exquisite mixed range reverberated throughout the theater, and stunned the audience over and over in numbers like "Not for the Life of Me" and "Gimme Gimme". Her commitment to character made her a shining beacon of light on stage. Her loving counterpart Jimmy Smith (Jacob Littman) swaggered onto stage and swept the audience off its feet with his tapping ability in What Do I Need with Love. Together the pair created wonderfully painful moments of sexual tension that emulated the romanticism of the 1920's.

 

No show would be complete without an array of superb supporting actors. Mrs. Meers (Amanda White) floored the audience when she made the shift from a completely believable old lady to a New York gangster selling poor orphan girls. Sweet Dorothy Brown (Lyndsay Snider) had a remarkable range, hitting beautiful ringing high notes in numbers like Falling in Love. Muzzy (Maddie Sisson) demonstrated operatic skill in her breathtaking songs like Long as I'm Here with You. Sassy Mrs. Flannery (Jai-Lani Walker) made everyone bust out laughing whenever she stomped on stage, with physical comedy in every stride of her character that made her a delight to watch.

 

The actors onstage were enhanced by the magnificent technical elements, specifically lighting, choreography, and the run crew. The lighting was precise and flowed wonderfully, adding splashes of color to enhance a scene's mood and were smoothly integrated. The choreography demonstrated a stunning homage to the era, with a mixture of tap and jazz that could not have been cleaner. Tap was even integrated into the set changes, with the movements added into the already seamless transitions from scene to scene.

 

During a time where the role of women had begun to shift, including more women in the workplace and the sporting of shorter skirts, the production of Thoroughly Modern Millie translated the toe-tapping fun to a compelling story of love, accomplishment, hope, and the beauty of showbiz.


 

Syona Ayyankeril

McLean High School

 

Amidst the madness of the roaring 20s, a small-town girl with big dreams attempts to navigate her way through the bustling streets of New York. Follow her journey as she attempts to make a place for herself in the world at Heritage High School's production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," a heartwarming and hilarious tale of love, friendship, and the American dream.

 

Based on the 1967 movie of the same name and the 1956 musical "Chrysanthemum," "Thoroughly Modern Millie" premiered on Broadway in 2002 with music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and a book by Scanlan and Richard Morris. The musical is set in 1922 and is centered around Millie Dillmount, a Kansas girl who leaves her old life and moves to New York with the goal of making it big by finding a rich husband. Along the way, however, things become complicated when she discovers love, faces the challenge of big city life, and accidentally rents a room in a hotel run by the head of a kidnapping ring.

 

Both a charismatic actress and skilled dancer, Emma Leone starred as Millie Dillmount and gave a performance characterized by dazzling vocals, skillful tap sequences, and a strong dramatic arc. Opposite Leone was Jacob Littman as the free-spirited salesman, Jimmy Smith. A gifted dancer and actor as well, Littman developed a sweet dynamic with Leone that was highlighted especially in moments such as "The Nuttycracker Suite" and "I Turned the Corner."

 

With a distinct and consistent characterization as well as great timing and delivery, Amanda White gave an excellent performance as the sinister Mrs. Meers, a highly trained former actress turned criminal who now spends her time posing as an old hotel owner to lure in and kidnap unsuspecting orphaned young ladies. Her target for much of the musical was played by Lyndsay Snider, who gave a lovely performance as Millie's best friend, Miss Dorothy. Snider proved to be a talented dancer, singer, and an energetic actress. Her sweet and old fashioned Dorothy provided an amusing contrast to the plucky and modern Millie.

 

In addition to the strong lead and supporting actors, the show was further enhanced by some notable featured actors and a strong ensemble. Jai-Lani Walker gave a memorable and hilarious performance as Ms. Flannery, the head stenographer at Sincere Trust. Also memorable was Dat Do as Ching Ho, one of Mrs. Meers' bellhops who is supposed to aid Mrs. Meers in kidnapping orphans, but instead falls in love with Miss Dorothy and serves as both a comedic and endearing presence on stage. The ensemble of other characters displayed great ability and discipline while executing impressive dance sequences that were phenomenally refined and precise. Standout dancers included Hannah Turner and Gökçe Necioglu who were featured in "The Speed Test" as speed tappists as well as in "The Nuttycracker Suite" as the Pearl Lady and the Letch. 

 

The striking choreography was only one of the many noteworthy technical elements executed by the students at Heritage High School.  With smooth and clean scene changes, the show was clearly run by an excellent stage crew, and featured a talented student orchestra that added to the energy of the show without overpowering the vocalists.

 

With this winning combination of gifted performers and detailed tech, the cast and crew delivered a fine-tuned and dynamic production with great heart and a charming message. Overall, Heritage High School's "Thoroughly Modern Millie" was a thoroughly delightful night to remember.

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