It’s the 1920’s, and Millie is a modern girl on a mission… to get a job with one of New York City’s most eligible bachelors and get him to marry her. Sudbrook Middle takes flapper fun to a whole new level with their production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” The choreography is fantastic, the sets are beautiful, the costumes are 1920s chic, and there are some truly outstanding performances.
Millie Dillmount (Hallie Shepherd) has just moved from Kansas to New York City. When she gets mugged and screams for help, she trips bypasser Jimmy Smith (Josh Bowden), who urges her to head home. Instead, Millie takes a room at the Hotel Priscilla, which is run by the evil Mrs. Meers (Kennedy Brumagin), a former actress who now works for a white slavery ring in Hong Kong.
Millie gets a job as a stenographer but is more into her boss, Trevor Graydon (Brendyn Pierce), than the work. That is, until she meets Jimmy again at a speakeasy, and the two share an intimate kiss. But after she spots Jimmy with her friend Miss Dorothy (Lucy DeBaugh), he has to win her back. Meanwhile, Mrs. Meers is attempting to kidnap Miss Dorothy and sell her into slavery.
Hallie Shepherd is amazing as Millie — full of spunk and determination. She also gives a fantastic vocal performance, particularly when she shows her tender side in “Jimmy.” Brumagin demonstrates her versatility as Mrs. Meers, alternating between a Chinese hotel proprietress when she’s with the girls at Hotel Priscilla and an over-the-top aging actress when she’s with her Chinese henchmen Bun Foo (Ezra Medina) and Ching Ho (James Roberson). DeBaugh is the epitome of class and sweetness as Miss Dorothy. And Jasmin Bevans as nightclub singer Muzzy Van Hossmere definitely entertains the crowd. Props also go to Roberson and Medina who have to speak (and sing!) in Chinese the entire show, which must be no easy feat.
Although the acting and singing are fantastic, what makes Millie really special are the details. When the show opens, we see a 1920s crowd rushing around the city, each actor doing his or her own thing. When the women are at the Hotel Priscilla, we see them tap dance in the elevator (probably because a sign reads ‘no tapping in lobby’). When the girls get arrested at a speakeasy, they take their mugshots one by one, holding their numbers (and even posing for the camera). And when the curtains are closed to change scenes, actors parade in front, entertaining the audience by pretending to take pictures of each other or arguing. It’s these little touches that make the show even better.
The 1920’s were all about good times and dancing, and this show had plenty of that too. In “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the cast performs in perfect sync, doing the Charleston and other 1920s signature moves. In “The Speed Test,” the stenographers tap dancing is akin to their typing, which is incredibly cute and creative. And when Miss Dorothy and Millie declare they’re falling in love, dancers enhance the scene with some graceful moves.
Props also have to go to the set designers. The bi-level Hotel Priscilla has doors which open and close and an elevator which actually appears to be going up (complete with a numbered dial which reflects what floor the guests are on). When Mrs. Meers is with Bun Foo and Ching Ho, laundry comes down from the ceiling. And the black and gold set of the city and sparkly curtain at the nightclub are perfect 1920’s glam. The designers also constructed different colored desks for each of the stenographers; the girls wear tights which match their desk (which proves no detail is overlooked).
Sudbrook brings the middle school musical to the next level. There is a ton of sparkle and glam in the costumes (complete with lots of fringe and flapper headbands). The sets are amazing. There are some outstanding performances. And the choreography is fantastic. Plus, the middle school band plays the accompaniment. Maybe it’s not thoroughly modern, but it’s thoroughly magnificent.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours with a 15-minute intermission.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Sudbrook Middle was only performed Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1 performances at 7 pm. For more information about Sudbrook Middle, click here.