Above from left; First photo: Carolann M Sanita, Lindi Duesenberg, Andrew Rannells, Allison Couture, Lisa Maietta, Andrea Chamberlain, Second photo: Lindi Duesenberg, Lisa Maietta, Andrea Chamberlain, Tory Ross, Allison Couture. Phtos by Kathleen A. Fahle.
Snazzy Pizzazz for Musical "Millie" in Dennis
Flapper Smasher hits Homer for Summer Theatre
By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today Theatre Critic
The Cape Playhouse has thrown its budget to the winds with the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Hosting a cast of 23 and a live orchestra of seven, this show is costing a packet. But there will be no regrets. They will pack them in every night and every matinee. For the last two weeks in July, the audiences will give a standing ovation to this flapper smasher as they did on opening night.
Professional all the way
The reason they will flock to the theatre is partly for nostalgia-the show is set in 1922-- and mostly because every aspect of the show is professional from the sets to the costumes to the direction to the choreography to the acting, dancing, and singing. In other words, this is a theatrical package with snazzy pizzazz and polish--professional polish. Besides that, it is slick, sweet, and sexy.
Bravos for Evans Haile
And don't overlook artistic director Evans Haile. Since his starring role in "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" as the kick-off show, his star power has grown. When he gives his introduction before the curtain opens, the applause, cat calls, and bravos are for him and his talents.
From screen to stage
The show has had a strange, wandering path to the stage. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" started out in 1956 as a British musical, called "Chrysanthemum." In 1967, screenwriter Richard Morris produced an award-winning film (Thoroughly Modern Millie), starring Carol Channing and Julie Andrews. In 2000 it was rewritten for the stage, enlisting a different composer and lyricist-Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan (Scanlan also assisted Morris in writing the book). In 2002, the show hit Broadway to overwhelming success and closed two years later.
Boy Meets Girl plot
The plot has a faint resemblance to "42nd Street" in that a sweet, naïve girl, Millie, arrives in New York City from Kansas with stars in her eyes. Only her eyes are set on finding a rich husband by landing a job as his stenographer. Her innocent, actress friend, Dorothy Brown, gets kidnapped into white slavery. Millie tries to save her. Both girls find true love.
Each one in the ensemble, big or small role, has star quality. Andrea Chamberlain gave her Millie plenty of gusto and humor, wrapped in sweet innocence. She sang "Forget the Boy" and "Gimme, Gimme" like a winner. Carolann Sanita (Dorothy Brown) has an incredible, almost operatic voice and a stunning stage presence. Cheryl Stern (Mrs. Meers) made a wonderful slimy, smarmy, Chinese lady pimp-head of the white slavery ring. Terry Burrell (Muzzy Van Hossmere) was as elegant, sexy, jazzy, and sensitive as the D.C. hostess, Perle Mesta, but of NYC. Tory Ross (Miss Flannery, Rita, Dorothy Parker) provided punchy humor to her characters.
Boyish and appealing Andrew Rannells (Jimmy Smith) was the perfect poor boy suitor to Millie. He wowed us in his songs "What Do I Need with Love" and "I Turned the Corner." Brian Sutherland gave a winning performance as Millie's boss, Trevor Graydon, head of the Sincere Trust Company. He, too, has a stunning voice, mimicking Nelson Eddy in "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life!" Billy Bustamante (Bun Foo) and Doan MacKenzie (Ching Ho) nearly stole the show with their Chinese Mandarin rendition to the song "Mammy," made famous by Al Jolson. Even the Cape Playhouse's own Jered Fournier (company manager) played his policeman to the fullest!
Sensational direction and choreography
All the male and female singers and dancers were sensational. Director Mark Martino and choreographer Denis Jones were largely responsible for this by their impeccable collaboration. It is a real miracle to get 14 or 20 dancers and singers on that small stage. Martino has done a brilliant job in the past, and he still has the master's touch. The "Speed Test" song was so clever with the secretaries tapping toes beneath their desks and nodding noses along the imaginary typewriter carriage. Some of the stage pieces verged on melodrama, but oh so subtly.
Jose Rivera also has outdone himself with the costumes that capture the flapper era. David Esler's scenic design has the stamp of professionalism with every shift of scene, complemented by Christopher Chambers' lighting..
Last, but not least, is the music under the skilled direction of Phil Reno and William Johnson. The flapper sound was ever-present and unflagging.
Bravo, guys and gals.
Stampede for tickets
Sign up fast for "Thoroughly Modern Millie." There will be a stampede to the box office.
By the way, Allan Neal in the audience has attended every opening night since 1927 or thereabouts!!