Thoroughly Modern Millie has a bit of an odd pedigree. It’s a musical based on a movie, a movie that was set in the 20s but written in the 60s. The original movie actually didn’t have many original songs; it was filled with hits from the teens and twenties. So how do you make a sixties movie with lots of dancing but not so much singing into a stage musical? Thoroughly Modern Millie “the musical” actually has a bunch of new songs to flesh it out – even lifted one from Gilbert and Sullivan – although it sticks pretty closely to the original madcap plot (you really just have to call it that) and includes the tap dance number in the elevator (to great effect). But … how does it work?
To my surprise, the net result of all of this flim flammery (now playing at the Landor Theater) was a completely engaging night that actually improved on the rather incoherent plot of its predecessor. We are flown right in from the start to the life of our lovely Millie, Francesca Lara Gordon, who, with her doe eyes, glowing face, and trim ankles seems destined to succeed at her stated goal: marrying a rich boss.
This is supposed to happen despite the many obstacles in her way: no money, no place to live, and no connections, but with her first mishap (and second dance number) she’s well on her way to finding a place for herself in New York. And we’re plunged into her world of glamorous dance numbers and ridiculous situations – an heiress who wants to room with her? A landlady (in New York) who’s willing to take credit? Unbelievable! – yet it’s impossible to push back too hard when so much screwball is hitting you between the eyeballs. Sam Spencer Lane ups the ante with fine choreography and a well-cast chorus of hoofers (special marks to Charlie Johnson, I look forward to seeing her dance again very soon) that had me hoping for the magical sound of taps being worn on stage at nearly every turn.
To make it all so much better, for once I got a musical with great songs (tuneful AND witty lyrics) delivered by high quality talent (such a voice from Sara-Marie Maxwell as Millie’s best friend Dorothy – where do they hide these people?) and even snazzy costuming (close enough to accurate for me and not done on the cheap), all of this unmiked and stuffed into the intimate confines of the Landor – and for about twenty pounds a pop. It even has a happy ending. There’s simply no excuse not to see this show and it may be one of the little twinkling stars I go see twice – Millie overdelivered value and that’s about as modern as it gets.
(This review is for the opening night performance that took place on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015. It continues through September 13th.)