Shuffle Off to Northern Kentucky University for Thoroughly Modern Millie!
Posted On June 28, 2017
Review by Spenser Smith of Thoroughly Modern Millie: NKU
Set in New York City in 1922, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the all-too-familiar tale of a country girl who moves to the big city to make a better life for herself. This story centers on Millie Dillmount from Kansas who comes to New York and lands at the Priscilla Hotel, a home away from home for aspiring actresses. Her plan is to find a job as a secretary for a wealthy man and then marry him. Of course, her plan goes completely awry. Based on the 1967 film starring Julie Andrews, the musical won six Tony Awards and launched little-known Sutton Foster from the chorus to center stage.
Director Jamey Strawn has tapped a truly talented cast for the first musical of the season at NKU. Kudos to the men and women of the ensemble, who hoof it all the way through two and a half hours of nonstop energy! Senior musical theatre student Megan Urz stars as hopeful progressive Millie Dillmount. Her deadpan delivery and quirky charm are the perfect medicine for her rigid surroundings. Just wait for the “Nutty Cracker Suite!” Melissa Cathcart provides many of the evenings comical moments as the show’s villain, Mrs. Meers, a washed-up actress who thinks she’s a star. Her henchmen Ching Ho and Bun Foo, played with charm by Aki Hosoda and Tyler Rosenblatt respectively, speak in Chinese that is translated with projection on the proscenium. This provides many laughs as they reprise songs sung by other characters. The dialogue was ahead of the projection for most of the show, which made it hard for their laughs to land. Christina Tully returns to the NKU stage after starring in The Grapes of Wrath earlier this fall and gets a chance to shine again as cabaret star and Millie confidant Muzzy Van Hossmere. She gets the show’s diva moment and delivers with power.
Scenic Designer Matthew Hamel provides a perfectly functioning set that appropriately depicts time and place but also allows for mostly-seamless transitions between the many changes in location. This show was adapted for the stage from a film and that is no easy task. Costume Designer Ronnie Chamberlain mostly succeeds with the period clothing. The men are appropriately dapper, yet some of the women look as though they’ve shopped at Cappel’s rather than Burgdorf’s. Sound issues were aplenty on opening night and many lines were lost. I’m sure this is a kink that will be worked out as the run progresses. The same can be said for the lighting, which was very dim in places it didn’t seem appropriate and there were several moments actors missed their light altogether, leaving them in the dark. Another kink I’m sure can be worked out for future performances.
A true standout is the energetic and very fun choreography staged by NKU faculty member Tracey Bonner. She also choreographed last season’s Into the Woods, and it seems she has a real talent for making chaos look good! It’s a joy to watch her work and I’m confident I could see the show again and catch something fresh each time.
The orchestra, conducted by Damon Stevens, includes a few local favorites and most are NKU music students. It’s nice to see that collaboration at work. There are several moments where conductor and singer don’t’ agree and the tempo drags, but another issue that is easily fixed.
Millie continues at the Corbett Theatre on the campus of Northern Kentucky University through December 11.
For tickets, call 859-572-5464Call: 859-572-5464 or visit theatre.NKU.edu.