Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thoroughly Modern Millie Takes the Roy-Hart Stage

The Roy-Hart musical has been a tradition in our family for a long time. Wendy has been teaching in that district for 20 years, and has been going to the shows since she started there -- for the most part. I have definitely missed a couple due to other commitments. I also missed a few at the beginning of her career just because I wasn’t really into musicals back then. Once I started going, however, I used the performances from the Roy-Hart stage to hone my likes and dislikes with regard to musicals.

This year’s choice of performance at Roy-Hart was not one that I was as familiar with as I was with other shows like “Guys & Dolls” or “Annie Get Your Gun.” With “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” all I knew was that there was a film that starred Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore. I knew that it was set in the 1920s and centered around flappers. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect in the story line.

The musical is based on that 1967 movie, which, in turn, was based on a musical of another name. The modern musical was written by Dick Scanlon with music by Jeanine Tesori, and opened April 18, 2002, on Broadway, but previewed in San Diego. Kristin Chenoweth held the title role of Millie Dillmount for the previews. The school edition of the musical debuted in June 2007.

This musical centers around Millie Dillmount, a young woman who has come to New York City from Kansas intent on marrying for money. Her plan is to find a job and then marry her boss, her future secure in his fortune. Instead, life has a different path for her to follow. She finds the burgeoning flapper lifestyle irresistible, and ends up in the midst of a white slavery ring centered out of the hotel from where she rents.

Sophomore, Mackenzie Rothwell, landed the lead role of Millie. Visually, she pulled off the transformation from a Kansas county girl to a New York flapper. She also had the vocal mannerisms of a woman from the 1920s. Add her singing talent to that, she was a very well rounded character in assuming the lead role.

Millie’s reluctant love interest was played by Ross Tetrault. Ross is a senior and this was his first time performing in a musical. At the very beginning of the show, he seemed a bit nervous, rushing his initial lines with Millie right after her mugging. However, by the end of the show, he had shaken off every bit of nervousness and delivered a strong, leading performance.

Muzzy Van Hossmere is a socialite, singer, widow, and head flapper. She also provided advice to Millie as she tried to define what her true feelings were for Jimmy. Played by Megan Brown, another senior at the school, she truly belted out the songs, “Only in New York” and “Long As I’m Here With You.” She had a great singing voice.

Senior Shannon Dent was more than up to the task of playing Mrs. Meers, the evil owner of the Paradise Hotel where Millie and the other aspiring girls boarded. Shannon not only was a great singer in this show, she probably had the best comedy and best comedic timing of anyone on the stage. Her scenes were full of laughs, along with her sidekicks, Ching Ho and Bun Foo. (We’ll read more about them in just a bit.) I looked forward to their next scenes.

Tyler Sauers portrayed Trevor Graydon, III, who was the head of the Sincere Trust Insurance Company, where Millie got her stenographer job. He was supposed to be Millie’s ticket to the easy life. Instead, he falls for her friend, Dorothy. Sauers does an admirable job as a flustered and slightly bumbling corporate executive.  He was especially funny during a scene where he was wallowing in the disappearance of Dorothy before their dinner date. It was a refreshing portrayal.

Dorothy Brown, the object of Graydon’s desires, was played by Madeline Keyes. Madeline obviously studied the soundtrack to the Broadway show as she echoed Angela Christian’s singing on that recording. She played the innocent rich girl very well, getting some well earned chuckles from the audience.

And this brings us back to Ching Ho and Bun Foo, Mrs. Meers’ henchmen. Portrayed by Aaron Klock and Logan Edwards, respectively, these two young actors got the most laughs of the entire show. They had to learn a whole other language for their parts. They spoke and sang in Cantonese and Mandarin. They were hilarious. Their subtitles appeared on a pair of screens at either side of the stage. The comedic timing between these two was nearly perfect, which is what makes comedy great.

As always, Gerald Bacon did fantastic work with the band. It’s probably something that comes with the name. Doesn’t Bacon make everything awesome? At any rate, the pit this year was far larger than in previous years. Mr. Bacon was able to pull it all together with all those different performers and timed to the action on stage. Or, maybe that’s the other way around? At any rate, I am always impressed with the leadership of Mr. Bacon and the talents of the group he puts together.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” was Brooke Yaiser’s first solo effort after taking over for Carol Blumrick after last year’s “Peter Pan.” While I think this may have been an overly ambitious inaugural attempt, Yaiser pulled together this large cast and delivered a performance that she and the school should be proud of. This show was the start of a new tradition with the Roy-Hart musicals. Here’s to another twenty years of musicals. Congratulations to  everyone involved with “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Craig Bacon loves seeing stage shows. He promised a friend a shout out for the Roy-Hart show. So, here it is: Chris Schaus was the brightest guy in the production. The brightest. Literally.