Thoroughly Modern Millie - Reviews
THE course of true love doesn't run smoothly in this rip-roaring musical comedy, which follows the fortunes of Kansas gal Millie Dillmount as she makes for the bright lights of New York on the trail of a rich husband.
The halcyon days of the Roaring 20s provide the setting for Carlton Operatic Society's dazzling production, which is directed with skill and panache by Amanda Hall, but owes much to the brilliance of dynamic leading lady Kate Williams in the title role.
On arrival in Manhattan, Millie is mugged and Jimmy Smith (Dan Armstrong ) "a likeable jerk!" recommends the Hotel Priscilla as "a safe haven". Here she encounters its eccentric "Chinese" proprietor Mrs Meers, a failed actress turned con-woman. Aided by servants Ching Ho and Bun Foo - superb performances from Charlie Cracknell and Mike Newbold - the sinister Mrs Meers - played to perfection by Sarah Warnsby - is using the hotel as a front for her dealings in white slavery, targeting vulnerable orphans.
Millie becomes a stenographer at an insurance company where the pompous boss Trevor Graydon (Charlie Bedson) fits the bill as a prospective husband but his formidable colleague Miss Flannery, wonderfully played by Christine Kilbourn, offers sound advice "Forget about the Boy".
Our heroine forms friendships with femme fatale Dorothy Brown and cabaret singer Muzzy Van Hossmere, delicious roles for talented Becky Wallhead and Jayne Russell, and together they run a romantic gauntlet that has its trials and tribulations.
Sparkling choreography (Rachael Newman), fantastic costumes, a terrific Speed Test routine and an equally impressive Chinese/English version of Jolson's Mammy are stunning highlights. The score is brilliantly delivered by the society's principals, and a masterly orchestra conducted by Stephen Williams enriches a production that is out of the top drawer.
When the musical began I had the feeling that I was not going to enjoy the performance but how wrong I was.
The show provided excellent singing, dancing, romance and a liberal helping of humour. The audience constantly showed their appreciation by long applause between and sometimes during the quickly changing scenes.
The entire cast entered into their roles with tremendous enthusiasm and talent but for me three people stole the show.
Sarah Warnsby, as the comically sinister Mrs Meers, who secretly ran a white slavery ring together with her two bully boys Bun Foo (Mike Newbold) and Ching Ho (Charlie Cracknell).
The Cantonese dialect of the two henchman was excellent and the rendition of ‘Mammy’ had the audience in hysterics. Mrs Meers had some members of the audience ‘hating’ her so much that at times they were hissing and booing to show their disapproval.
Both Kate Williams and Dan Armstrong are to be congratulated on their fine performances as Millie and Jimmy. Their enthusiasm never wavered and every word they uttered or sang was clearly audible.
A very cleverly choreographed scene was set in the typing pool of Sincere Trust when the noise of typewriters was reproduced by the tap dancing feet of the seated stenographers. The effect was that of a room full of girls typing as fast as they could.
The opening scenery gave the illusion of being in New York on a warm sunny day and the costumes were excellent evoking the flapper era.
The members of the orchestra played with great expertise, never once playing so loudly that they masked the singing of the cast.
If possible do go and see this enjoyably funny fast moving production.
We could have been in London’s West End Professional Theatre-land, such was the superb all-round performance standard achieved. To mention names would mean a very long list but Kate Williams (Millie) and Sarah Warnsby (Mrs Meers) stood out. Sufficient to say that "superb achievement" applied to the production team, cast (principals, chorus and dancers), band, costumes, props, set and all backstage and technical staff. A wonderful team effort that I am sure many will remember for a long time. The end result also reflects a well-judged and well-prepared rehearsal schedule. Thank you Carlton for a very entertaining evening.
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