If you saw the movie, but not the show, this is a must-see experience. Actually, the musical now playing at Riverside Theatre, Thoroughly Modern Millie, is based on the movie, which in turn is based on a British musical, Chrysanthemum. Confused? Don’t be. Just see this beautifully produced show!
However you may have seen it, the Riverside production is the best of them all for two reasons: the performers are Broadway-quality (as always,) and this may be the only opportunity you ever have to see it up close and personal.
For those of you who never saw it, Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount (played by the talented Abby Church), who comes to New York City hoping to marry for money instead of love – okay, this is set in the 1920s, when women were just entering the workforce and only recently won the right to vote!
Millie is mugged almost immediately and meets a man, Jimmy Smith (Patrick Mobley) whose help she rejects, but who will become a key character in the show. After losing everything, she checks into a sleazy hotel for women owned by the leader of a Chinese white slavery ring. The hotel manager, Mrs. Meers (a hilarious Adinah Alexander), dresses traditional Chinese and talks with a faux-Chinese accent to her women guests, but switches to her normal lower-class Brooklynese when speaking with her real Chinese boss and real Chinese co-workers. She preys on unattached, destitute, but wide-eyed young small town women, of which Millie is a candidate, as are other young women Millie befriends at the hotel. An older woman, relatively speaking, wants to find out what is really going on at that hotel and will become a key character. One of Millie’s friends, Ethel Peas (a delightful Melissa Schott) does end up being kidnapped by Mrs. Meers’ Chinese co-workers, Ching Ho and Bun Foo (Anthony Chan and Carl Hsu). They are comic highlights in the show, doing most of their dialogue in Mandarin, requiring a drop down translation screen whenever they speak.
Millie finds employment at a bank, Sincere Trust (an oxymoron?), as stenographer – if you are over 60, please explain the term to your grown children. She sets her sights on her boss, Trevor Graydon III (Matthew Hydzik), but he is not interested in her beyond her typing skills. Meanwhile, Jimmy Smith, who is falling for Millie, invites her to a party hosted by a famous singer, Muzzy Van Hossmere (Nicole Powell), who turns out to be the “older woman” who checked into Millie’s hotel. At the party, she falls in love with Jimmy and these multiple story lines go on from there.
From that point there are hilarious incidents, tender moments and all through the show there is plenty of great music by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan. Needless to say, there is a happy ending, or should I say several happy endings for different characters.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a truly enjoyable show and you should not miss it. It’s what going to musical theater is all about!
It’s playing now through January 26 at Riverside Theatre and you can purchase tickets at www.riversidetheatre.com or call 772-231-6990.