Audiences looking for a fun night out will find that The Production Company’s Thoroughly Modern Millie will fit the bill. From first to last it’s pacy and sharp with song and dance routines performed with the usual TPC panache.
Many people will recall Julie Andrews as the wide-eyed ingénue Millie from the country, determined to make her mark on New York before it makes its mark on her. Set in the optimistic world of post-war 1920s America, anything seems possible. But all is not always as it seems, and Millie’s home away from home, Hotel Priscilla, is a cover for an underworld operation. But Millie is determined to find her Mr Right – not marrying the boss, Trevor Graydon, at the insurance company where she finds a job as a crack stenographer. (Memo young readers – stenographers were hot stuff before the days of Dictaphones and computers!).
Millie learns a lot of lessons along the way, and finds that happiness is sometimes found in a totally different place from where we expect it. With the help of Millie and her chums, goodness triumphs as wrongs are righted and unsuitable romantic liaisons are untangled and everyone ends up with the right partner.
Newcomer Annie Aitken is a delightful Millie, a true all rounder who should have a great career in music theatre. Her sidekick Miss Dorothy, opera singer-turned-music-theatre-star Claire Lyon gives a masterful performance, with occasionally giving delicious full rein to those operatic chops. In the cameo role of Miss Flannery, Angela Scundi is a treat.
Handsome male leads, Adam-Jon Fiorentino as Trevor Graydon and Nigel Huckle as Jimmy Smith give excellent performances, but in my view the honours went to the mature females in the cast – Marina Prior as Mrs Meers and Queenie Van De Zandt as Muzzy Van Hossmere. Prior’s double dealing actor-turned-landlady and Van De Zandt’s star club singer Muzzy simply hold the audience in the palm of their hands whenever they are on stage; they are a master class for every young performer! And I’m sure I was not the only audience member on opening night who loved the fact that the majority of the stars in this show are female, and that two of the best roles went to ladies who left their 40th birthdays behind some time ago. Let’s hear it for established female talent!!
Director Chris Parker has applied a sure but light touch to the show, and musical director Peter Casey leads a terrific orchestra, which as usual shares the stage with the performers. Costumes by Isaac Lumis are breathtakingly good and really transport us back to 1922.
However, I do have just one word of warning – Thoroughly Modern Millie is anything but modern in its political sensibilities and must be seen as a product of its time, as there are elements that today would be seen as racist. But as long as you are prepared for that, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a show to delight Melbourne and worth venturing out for on a chilly Melbourne winter night.
Julie Houghton reviewed The Production Company’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre on August 3, 2019.