Modern Millie an old-fashioned musical
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 06:00 am
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Paul Kane High Musical Theatre
Jan. 9 to 11 at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15. Call 780-459-4405
It may be winter in St. Albert, but step inside the Arden Theatre with the Paul Kane High musical theatre production and it’s a different matter.
From Jan. 9 to 11, the high school musical theatre troupe whisks you away to Thoroughly Modern Millie, set in the Art Deco world of 1920s New York.
Originally a 1967 film starring Julie Andrews, the musical was adapted for the stage in 2000 by Jeanine Tesori, Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan. Deliciously silly, uplifting and resplendent with charm, it’s a frisky tribute to Prohibition and the modern woman.
In some ways it’s fairly old-fashioned. A wide-eyed, mid-western country girl named Millie leaves her small town to marry for money instead of love. Once in the Big Apple, she encounters Jimmy, a dapper young man she keeps at a distance while chasing her boss at the steno pool.
Throw in a phony Chinese woman running a white slavery ring that kidnaps young women, and a jazzed up version of The Nutcracker where flappers Charleston the night away, and you have the makings of an endearingly wacky production.
Much of the appeal is Millie’s “independent modern woman” harkening back to the flapper era in much the same way that Austin Powers was a contemporary prism for the 1960s.
“The message is about following your dreams and sometimes what you want is not always what’s best for you,” says director Lisa Whitson.
Her 47-member cast includes Sarah Anderson, fresh from her comedic role of Paulette in St. Albert Children’s Theatre winter production of Legally Blonde.
“Sarah just eased into the role. She’s focused and willing to take on any character you give her. She brings an innocence to Millie. She doesn’t overdo her. She brings realism and authenticity and you can relate to her. She’s quite natural,” notes Whitson.
Interestingly, Anderson initially did not like her character’s businesslike approach to marriage.
“But you gotta love her. She does make the right decision and she goes through an arc trying to decide if she should marry for money and fulfil her dreams,” explains Anderson.
Anderson adds Millie’s personality comes through quite eloquently in two songs. Not for the Life of Me is a vibrant, take charge number revelling in Millie’s modern ambitions. In Jimmy, Millie realizes she’s unexpectedly fallen in love with the wrong man.
Cast in the role of carefree Jimmy is Drew Bremault.
“Drew just moved to St. Albert and he’s trained as a singer on stage. He has a strong vocal ability and was eager to learn. His character is realistic but he also brings a goofy innocence to Jimmy,” Whitson comments.
In addition, Danyelle Lachowich portrays Mrs. Meers, the evil owner of the Hotel Priscilla who runs a white slave ring.
“I’m so excited for her. Normally she’s a quiet person, but she’s broken out of her shell. At the auditions Danyelle put all her energy into the role and created someone completely different from herself. She’s very funny and a very comedic villain.”
Kieran Murphy (Ching Ho) and Russell Engel (Bung Foo) handle some of the production’s biggest challenges. As Mrs. Meer’s fumbling Chinese henchmen, Murphy and Engel were required to learn Mandarin for their singing role.
“This is a very good play for showcasing smaller numbers and individual actors,” states Whitson.
She adds that the production warranted numerous big set pieces. Not only did the technical and production crews work on the construction, but also the actors.
With 20 different scenes, the large set combines streets, silhouettes, skyscrapers, a hotel, a laundry room, halls, a steno pool, a speakeasy and even an office-building ledge.
“It’s very stylized and highly enjoyable,” Whitson says.
Music director Darryl Price will lead a 24-piece band of professional and semi-professional musicians from the community, including Paul Kane High teachers Paul Shamchuk (violin) and Angee Lockhart (cello).
“Thoroughly Modern Millie is fun, bright and energizing so when you leave the theatre you’ll be feeling uplifted,” Whitson says.