The Long Islander Review: Millie Supplies Laughs in Lively Performance

The Long Islander
June 23, 2016
Janee Law

Where the hair is short and the dresses sparkle and flap, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” takes audiences back to the roaring 20s, to witness a lively and energetic performance at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport Village.

At the height of the Jazz age in New York City, audiences are in for a night of laughter and sensational entertainment, which includes singing, tap dancing, scat singing and more.

The production, which on Broadway has won six Tony awards, follows the original story and screenplay by Richard Morris for the 1967 Universal Pictures film.

At Engeman Theater, choreography is done by Dena DiGiacinto and Drew Humphrey, who also directed the production. The story follows the journey of Millie Dillmount (Tessa Grady), a quirky and determined flapper, who moves from Kansas to Manhattan in search of a husband, finding what she initially tried to avoid: love.

In this journey, Millie meets a variety of characters that help her along the way including Miss Dorothy Brown (Sarah Stevens), a curly cued redhead, who shocks the crowd with pipes that can raise the ceiling.

Millie also meets Jimmy Smith (Daniel Plimpton), an eligible suitor who does whatever it takes to pursue Millie, including standing on the ledge of a window in “I Turned the Corner.”

In addition to the talented cast, Mrs. Meers (Michele Ragusa), owner of Hotel Priscilla who kidnaps orphaned women into slavery, had the crowd laughing every time she stepped on stage. With a mix of evil and humor and a poisonous apple has her weapon of choice, Mrs. Meers reflects classic Disney villains in “They Don’t Know.”

“I wanted to be sure that I created her with taste and with care and I think I’ve achieved that,” Ragusa said. “As an actor, to have a role where there’s really no boundaries at all is incredibly freeing. It’s so fun and to hear the response from the audience just feels awesome.”

Ragusa, who also appeared in Engeman’s “Lend Me A Tenor” and “Boeing, Boeing,” said her favorite scene to perform was with the laundry basket and “Muqin,” sung by Ching Ho (Anthony Chan) and Bun Foo (Carl Hsu). Although sung in Chinese, a screen is pulled down from the ceiling for the audience to follow the subtitles.

In the opening of Act II, the audience is jumped back into the excitement where a ban of women join together in an energetic tap dancing number, “Forget About the Boy.” The scene had the audience whistling, shouting and clapping with thrill.

“The voices were incredible,” said Dorothy Gouzoules, of East Northport, who was in the crowd. “You couldn’t imagine anybody else in the roles. It was very entertaining, and it kept you awake.”

Lisa Bentivegna, of Centerport, said she enjoyed the whole performance, from the singing and the acting.

“It was very upbeat, lively and Mrs. Meers was pretty funny,” she added.

When the curtains closed, the ensemble received a standing ovation from the audience.

The last day to witness the production is July 10. Showtimes are Thursdays and Fridays, at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the 250 Main St. box office, or at Engemantheater.com, and range $69-$74.

Read online at www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/

The John W. Engeman Theater presents MAMMA MIA!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(Northport, NY- June 2016) – The John W. Engeman Theater announces the cast and creative team for MAMMA MIA!  Performances begin on Thursday, July 21 at 8:00pm and run through Sunday, September 11, 2016.

Over 60 million people around the world have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make MAMMA MIA! the ultimate feel-good show! This tale full of sun and fun unfolds on a Greek island paradise when, on the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years before. Based on the music of Swedish pop group ABBA, this Tony Award-nominated musical includes hits like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “The Winner Takes It All,” and many, many more!

MAMMA MIA! is produced by RICHARD T. DOLCE the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director.

The Director and Choreographer is ANTOINETTE DIPIETROPOLO (Engeman Theater: Memphis, Miracle on 34th Street, The Producers, A Christmas Story, Evita!, The Music Man, South Pacific, Hairspray, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change and Nunsense. Off Broadway: With Glee. Regional: Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, Ragtime. National Tour: How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Associate Director/Choreographer for The Big Apple Circus).  The Musical Director is JAMES OLMSTEAD (Engeman Theater: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Memphis, West Side Story, The Producers, A Chorus Line, Evita. Broadway: Radio City’s New York Spring Spectacular (Keyboardist), On Your Feet! (Copyist). Off Broadway Music Director: 54 Below/Feinstein’s Broadway Swinger, Birdland’s BAA 10th Anniversary Concert, Laurie Beechman’s Perfectly Complicated. Off Broadway Synth Programmer: Fun Home. Composer: Mambo Italiano, Gary Goldfarb: Master Escapist.).

 

The Creative Team includes: DT WILLIS (Scenic Design), TRISTAN RAINES (Costume Design), ADAM HONORE (Lighting Design), ADAM SHUBERT (Sound Design), GAYLE SEAY and SCOTT WOJCIK of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING (Casting Directors), KRISTIE MOSCHETTA (Props Design), DENISE WILCOX (Production Stage Manager), and MEGAN E. COUTTS (Assistant Stage Manager).

 

The cast of MAMMA MIA! features MICHELLE DAWSON as Donna Sheridan (Broadway: Mamma Mia!, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Ragtime, Showboat, & Cyrano); JACOB DICKEY as Sky (Regional: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Theatre Raleigh), Mamma Mia! (Royal Caribbean), Next to Normal (Charleston Stage); SEAN HAYDEN as Sam Carmichael (Broadway national tours: Lincoln Center’s The Light in the Piazza and Mamma Mia! Off Broadway: Confidentially, Cole); HEATHER PATTERSON KING as Tanya (Regional and NY: Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz); ROBIN LOUNSBURY as Rosie (Regional: Fulton Theatre, Barrington Stage, Paper Mill Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre); HANNAH SLABAUGH as Sophie Sheridan (National Tour: Annie; NYC: Babes in Arms (Musicals Tonight); JEFF WILLIAMS as Bill Austin (Broadway/National Tour: The Music Man, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Pirate Queen, A Christmas Carol, The Will Rogers Follies, Me and My Girl); FRANK VLASTNIK as Harry Bright (Engeman Theater: The Sunshine Boys; Broadway: A Year with Frog and Toad, Sweet Smell of Success, Big. Off-Broadway: Sondheim’s Saturday Night).

The cast also includes: LYDIA RUTH DAWSON, JOEY DIPPEL, JAY GAMBOA, CHRISTOPHER HLINKA, STEPHANIE ISRAELSON, YURINA KUTSUKAKE, DARIUS JORDAN LEE, SUZANNE MASON, EDWARD MISKIE, ANJULI REGNIER, AVERY ROYAL and JENNIFER SEIFTER.

Press Opening is Saturday, July 23rd at 8:00pm

 

MAMMA MIA! will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00.  Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, $71 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at www.EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.  Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

 

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality, theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

 

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

Long Island Press Review: A Thoroughly Marvelous ‘Millie’ Opens at Engeman Theater

Long Island Press
June 6, 2016
Elise Pearlman

Thoroughly Modern Millie—the most highly acclaimed show of 2002, and winner of both Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical—has opened at Northport’s John W. Engeman Theater.

The theater has pulled out all the stops in its retelling of the madcap escapades of a small town girl who casts aside her provincial background to embrace the ‘modern’ lifestyle of 1920s Manhattan. To truly capture the spirit of the decade that roared, the cast, music, singing, dancing, choreography, lighting, set and costume design have to be exemplary. Engeman’s production delivers on every level. Simply put, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a delight not to be missed.

The era, known alternately as the Roaring Twenties, the Crazy Years (France) and the Golden Years (Germany), was ushered in by unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. In this period of unbridled optimism and risk-taking, dynamic cultural changes took place. Emboldened by the right to vote, women entered the workforce in droves and cast off prim and proper stereotypes. In big cities around the world, people’s zest for life was reflected in music (jazz), dance, architectural styles (art deco) and elaborate, colorful trends in fashion.

As the show opens, Millie Dillmount (Tessa Grady), a starry-eyed ingénue from a “one-light town” in Kansas, has fulfilled her dream of getting to New York City. She literally makes her transformation from sedate small town girl to a free-spirited ‘modern’ before our eyes. Sporting newly bobbed hair, her stunning yellow outfit sets her apart from the ensemble clothed in light colored, metallic-toned costumes. As Millie sings and dances against a shimmering backdrop depicting the Manhattan skyline, she is the centerpiece of the title number “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Prepare to be smitten.

Alas, Millie does not remain starry-eyed for long. She is summarily stripped of her purse, hat and even one shoe by a thief. What’s a penniless girl to do?

A passerby, Jimmy Smith (Daniel Plimpton) who has seen the likes of Mille before and warns her to go back home, dishes out one piece of handy advice—to seek lodging at Hotel Priscilla, where the owner is known to be lenient to financially strapped young single women seeking fame and fortune in the big city.

Millie’s plan for putting an end to her financial woes is by no means a feminist one. She envisions finding a single, well-to-do boss and marrying him. Love doesn’t have to figure into the equation in this brave new world where reason is supposed to preside over romance. Or does it?

Millie finds what she is looking for in the very business-like Trevor Graydon (Tim Rogan) at the Sincere Trust Insurance Company. As Millie takes her place at the typewriter to show off her prowess, she sets the stage for “The Speed Test,” one of the show’s most engaging and intricately timed musical numbers. The entire ensemble tap-dances as Millie types and tap-dances beneath the desk. Rogan is terrific, and his no nonsense demeanor is the perfect foil for Grady’s exuberance.

Meanwhile, something clearly unsavory is brewing at Hotel Priscilla, where young boarders are disappearing at an alarming rate. Don’t let the red-and-black kimono worn by the owner, Mrs. Meers, fool you. This woman—who boasts the world’s worst Chinese accent—is really a frustrated actress who is making a bundle selling girls with no family ties into white slavery. Mrs. Meers, played by Michele Ragusa, is uproariously funny as are her partners-in-crime, brothers Ching Ho (Anthony Chan) and Bun Foo (Carl Hsu).

The recent immigrants are trying to save enough money to bring their mother from Hong Kong. I won’t give away the details, but their antics and their unexpected parody (rendered in song, of course) had the audience laughing uncontrollably.

Jimmy and Millie run into each other again, and before they know it, they are quasi-dating yet both remain conflicted. Jimmy reflects on this in his soul-searching solo, “What Do I Need With Love?”

Millie finds an unlikely confidante in stylish socialite and singer Muzzy Van Hossmere (Nicole Powell), whom she meets through Jimmy. Ms. Powell’s extremely impressive voice is showcased in “Only in New York” and “Long As I’m Here With You.”

Jonathan Collins’ sets never fail to astound and this versatile design pays homage to the art deco motif that defined the ‘20s. It’s a masterpiece that was eight months in the making and it shows.

Collins said that the design called for “a steel emerald city.”

“I wanted to make it as detailed and interesting as possible,” he said of the trio of architectural portals which are ornamented with three different silvers and golds and art deco’s signature repeating bold geometric shapes.

Cory Pattak uses lighting to accent this set throughout the production and the results are stunning. I was particularly wowed by the dreamy, surrealistic use of oranges and magentas in the scene in the speakeasy where intoxicated patrons stumble around and appear to dance in slow motion.

Kurt Alger has done a phenomenal job with costume and wig design. The boldly striped suits, delicious jewel-hued fringed and sequined gowns, feather boas, and cloches speak authentically to the period and are utterly fabulous.

Kudos to Drew Humphrey, whose direction is flawless. He also choreographed the dance numbers with Dena DiGiacinto, and their efforts will leave you wanting more.

Wojcik/Seay Casting has outdone itself in assembling one of the most talented troupes ever to appear on the Engeman Stage. Tessa Grady, the star of the show, is a true gem.
As always, the impeccable performance by the band led by James Olmstead (who does double duty as conductor and keyboardist) is indispensable to creating the era’s ambiance.

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs through July 10. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, by calling 631-261-2900 or visiting www.engemantheater.com

Read online at www.longislandpress.com/2016/06/06/a-thoroughly-marvelous-millie-opens-at-engeman-theater/

NY Times Review: ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ in Northport Tap-Dances Around Dated Mores

NY Times
June 4, 2016
Aileen Jacobson

As you watch “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” it is difficult to remember that the old-fashioned musical set in 1922 dates only to a 2002 Broadway debut. Its staging at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport reinforces that sense of nostalgia, as it blithely features a time when the “modern” goal of a smart gal was to marry for money instead of love, and when “white slavery” was something to joke about.

The audiences that poured into the hit show during its more than two-year Broadway run, during which it picked up six Tony Awards, including best musical, apparently weren’t bothered by those themes. And, indeed, that effervescent production, which made Sutton Foster a star, erased, or at least plowed through, most misgivings with precision tap-dancing and quirky performances that emphasized sending up, rather than accepting, the mores of the 1920s. I remember liking the show.

These days, the kidnapping (or trafficking) of women, as well as men and children, is a more serious topic. Marrying for money, of course, still goes on, but it’s not considered cutting edge. Creating a “Millie” that overcomes shifting attitudes must still be possible, but the Engeman production, under Drew Humphrey’s direction, never gets as fabulously funny as it needs to, though it is largely enjoyable.

The choreography, by Mr. Humphrey and Dena DiGiacinto, often becomes tedious, relying on repetitive stylized moves while the dancers, in one or two rows, face the audience. The set, designed by Jonathan Collins, features repeated Art Deco designs, as do the glittery costumes by Kurt Alger. Everything is too coordinated.

Fortunately, the singing, acting and dancing are all solid. Tessa Grady is charming as Millie Dillmount, who arrives in New York from Salina, Kan., determined to stay no matter what, even after she is mugged and left with no purse, hat or scarf and only one shoe. Jimmy Smith, a dapper young man she trips so he will stop to help her, advises her to return to Kansas. When she refuses, he steers her toward a hotel for actresses. “They’re used to girls who can’t pay,” Jimmy, nicely played by Daniel Plimpton, tells her.

It turns out that the hotel’s proprietor, Mrs. Meers, makes her money by kidnapping some of the aspiring actresses and selling them into slavery in Hong Kong. Mrs. Meers (Michele Ragusa) wears a kimono and speaks in a stereotypical accent that occasionally sounds more Southern American than Southeast Asian. Her posturing, though strange, is supposed to be part of the comedy, because as the script makes clear, she is American-born and not of Chinese heritage at all.

Ms. Ragusa is funny, though not as hilarious as intended. Her best moments come in interactions with two Chinese brothers — engagingly played by Anthony Chan and Carl Hsu — who handle laundry for the hotel and participate in the kidnapping scheme. Watch for their hilarious second-act “Muqin,” in which the brothers sing “My Mammy” in Chinese while supertitles do the translating.

The brothers stop cooperating after one of them suddenly falls in love with the latest victim, Miss Dorothy Brown (a lovely, strong-voiced Sarah Stevens), a friend of Millie’s. Another man who falls instantly for Dorothy is Trevor Graydon (Tim Rogan), Millie’s wealthy boss and the man she hopes to marry. Mr. Rogan masters “The Speed Test,” a quick-paced patter song with music borrowed from Arthur Sullivan and some lyrics from W. S. Gilbert, though most of the words, about stenography, are by Dick Scanlan.

Though the musical uses other borrowed material, most songs are original. Mr. Scanlan wrote all of the new lyrics and wrote the show’s book with Richard Morris, who wrote the screenplay for the 1967 movie, starring Julie Andrews, upon which the musical is loosely based. Among the borrowed songs is “I’m Falling in Love with Someone,” a duet ably sung by Mr. Morris and Ms. Stevens, which Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald sang in the 1935 film “Naughty Marietta.” The number succeeds as a spoof.

The music for the original songs — including the lively “Gimme, Gimme” — was written by Jeanine Tesori, who usually composes for more thoughtful shows, like “Fun Home,” currently on Broadway. James Olmstead, the music director, leads his band tunefully.

The musical ends with a revelation made by Muzzy Van Hossmere, a rich widow and nightclub singer. Earlier, Nicole Powell, a smoky-voiced chanteuse who plays Muzzy with a refreshingly calm dignity, delivers an elegant “Only in New York,” one of the best Tesori-Scanlan songs. It’s a highlight in a production that is often pleasant and entertaining.

Read online at www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/nyregion/review-thoroughly-modern-millie-in-northport-tap-dances-around-dated-mores

Broadway World Review: THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at the Engeman

Broadway World
June 1, 2016
Melissa Giordano

Closing out a spectacular 9th season at Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theatre is a first-rate incarnation of the Tony winning musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. Is this show done consistently? Perhaps. But let me tell you everything about this production, running through July 10th, is absolutely top-notch and certainly a must-see for this season.

The zany tale, set in the roaring 1920’s, gives us a peek into the lives of “moderns” – now more popularly known as flappers – living in a jazz filled New York City when women began bobbing their hair, entering the workforce, and just completely throwing all the rules out the window. Running through July 10th at the gorgeous Northport venue, the Broadway caliber company is superbly directed by Engeman Theatre vet Drew Humphrey.

Expertly leading Mr. Humphrey’s cast is Tessa Grady (Broadway: Annie, Dames At Sea, et.al) who exquisitely portrays Millie Dillmount, the role portrayed by Julie Andrews in the 1967 movie. Indeed a favorite among the enthusiastic audience is her rendition of “Not For The Life Of Me” in Act I and “Gimme, Gimme” in Act II. A strong, fabulous voice and a lot of sass make Ms. Grady a natural for the role.

Speaking of the movie incarnation, with some differences, of course, the musical stays close to Ms. Andrew’s movie. The evil Ms. Meers, portrayed by Michele Ragusa, kidnaps the orphans that register at her hotel and she has her two sidekicks from Hong Kong. Ms. Ragusa puts a brilliant comedic spin on the role that leaves everyone in absolute stiches. In addition, Nicole Powell (Broadway: Ragtime revival, Hairspray) gives a thrilling diva performance as Muzzy Van Hossmere, portrayed by Carol Channing in the movie version.

I really could go on and on about the entire company; they are all truly remarkable.

Mr. Humphrey’s creative team is also stellar. He choreographs with Dena DiGiacinto on the wonderful performances. The rousing tap dance numbers are especially well received. And Jon Collins’ stunning set is enhanced beautifully Cory Pattack’s spot-on lighting and Kurt Alger’s dazzling costumes. And naturally it is always wonderful to see a fantastic live orchestra under the direction of Musical Director James Olmstead.

And so, Thoroughly Modern Millie is definitely another hit for the Engeman Theatre. I dare say that if you have seen this before, this production could breathe new life into it for you; the Engeman has a habit of doing that.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Thoroughly Modern Millie is presented by the John W. Engeman Theatre through July 10th.

Directed by DREW HUMPHREY, Choreography by DREW HUMPHREY & DENA DIGIACINTO, Musical Direction by JAMES OLMSTEAD, Scenic Design by JON COLLINS, Costume/Hair and Wig Design by KURT ALGER, Lighting Design by CORY PATTAK, Sound Design by CRAIG KAUFFMAN, Casting by GAYLE SEAY & SCOTT WOJCIK of WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, Props Design by KRISTIE MOSCHETTA, Stage Management by JULIANNE MENASSIAN

Starring TESSA GRADY as Millie Dillmount, DANIEL PLIMPTON as Jimmy Smith, MICHELE RAGUSA as Mrs. Meers, SARAH STEVENS as Miss Dorothy Brown, TIM ROGAN as Trevor Graydon, and NICOLE POWELL as Muzzy Van Hossmere with ANTHONY CHAN, ELISH CONLON, DARIA DEGAETANO, MARIA GARVEY, MORGAN HARRISON, ALICIA HEMANN, CARL HSU, DARRELL T. JOE, RYAN KOERBER, OREN KORENBLUM, KIM MCCLAY, NICK MONALDO, HILLARY PORTER, JOHN SCACCHETTI and MICHAEL VERRE.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com

Read online at www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-THOROUGHLY-MODERN-MILLIE-at-the-Engeman

Smithtown Matters Theater Review: ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’

Smithtown Matters
June 1, 2016
Jeb Ladouceur

None of our Dear Readers, will remember the height of the Jazz Age in New York City in 1922. Matter of fact, some of you weren’t around even as recently as 2002 … the year a Broadway musical titled ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ took home more Tony Awards than did any other show that season.

But if that’s the case, what you missed then, you can readily make up for now, thanks to the glitzy, glorious gem of a production that’s on the boards at Northport’s snazzy Engeman Theater thru July 10.

Produced by Richard Dolce (most of us know him as the father of Katie Dolce, still a few years away from starring as ‘Millie’) and directed by the inimitable Drew Humphrey, who once choreographed a blockbusting ‘White Christmas’ on Broadway, this musical is probably better than any of the huge successes either impresario has yet been involved with.

Never mind the eleven Tony nominations and six wins (including top musical) that ‘Millie’ garnered in ’02 … or the fact that remarkable Julie Andrews shot the 1967 film into orbit … the primary reason you simply must see this show is a young singing, dancing, acting sensation named Tessa Grady.

Grady plays the title role to perfection in this nifty musical about small town girl ‘Millie Dillmount’ who arrives in The Big Apple half a century before it was commonly referred to as such. Her objective is to get some rich guy to the altar … an aspiration that, if generally undeclared in flapper days, you can bet your boyish bob existed nonetheless.

Anyway, women were just entering the workforce at the time, and Millie, who quickly falls for the ‘modern’ lifestyle, fits right in! In more ways than one, it must be noted, because if anybody ever filled a sequined chemise or a fringed cocktail dress better than Tessa Grady, we haven’t had the pleasure.

On that subject: The Engeman seems to have become acutely aware of a Show Business axiom that someone once labeled ‘dress for success.’ The period costumes in this production easily live up to the near-breathtaking standards that Richard Dolce and Kevin O’Neill have set for the company in such musicals as ‘A Chorus Line’ and ‘White Christmas,’ among others. Indeed, one wonders how Costume and Wig Designer Kurt Alger is able to fit so many changes into this fast-paced show. And the garlanded guys are as artfully arrayed as the festooned flappers.

However, the real eye candy in this visually appealing musical is Millie herself. The young woman is a clothes horse chameleon if ever there was one. She can wear any color and accommodate any style without seeming the least bit uncomfortable in her routines … she even performs one intricate tap dance number while seated … at a typewriter … yes, tapping and typing simultaneously!

Sharing the spotlight with Tessa Grady is a youthful actor named Tim Rogan. You’ll spot him right away when you catch this must see production in Northport. He plays Millie’s broad-shouldered boss at ‘The Sincere Trust Insurance Company.’ Rogan is a show biz natural. He’s got all the tools—speaking, singing, dancing—and he looks like a million bucks! To those attributes, add stage presence and an intuitive comedic sense, and you’ve got a star who belongs in the same league with Grady.

With apologies to the dozens of hoofers in this wonderful show who have not been mentioned, let it be said that the magnificent production obviously couldn’t have been mounted with only two performers … regardless of their excellence. The entire cast combined to give us an unforgettable delight, and this reviewer looks forward to singling out each contributor for praise when The Engeman brings them back in the near future.

And the sooner the better.

Read online at www.smithtownmatters.com/long-island-theater/2016/6/1/theater-review-thoroughly-modern-millie

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ at John W. Engeman Theater

NY Theatre Guide
May 30, 2016
Kristen Weyer

Thoroughly Modern Millie, a winner of six Tony awards, is closing out the 9th season at the John W. Engeman Theater. Based on the Academy Award winning movie from 1967, the musical’s book was written by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, with new music by Jeanine Tesori and new lyrics by Dick Scanlan.

It’s the 1920s in New York City, the Jazz Age, where prohibition is in full swing, and flappers abound. Young Millie Dillmount has just arrived from Kansas a wide-eyed innocent, intent on transforming herself into a “modern.” She shortens her skirts, bobs her hair, and finds a job. With a goal of nabbing a wealthy husband, she sets off to execute her plan unsuspecting of the complications life would throw in her way. As she meets friends and fiends, she learns lessons about life and herself, with laughs, love and adventure along the way.

This show is a unique and fun blend of tradition and humor. It contains, and lovingly pokes fun at, the elements of a 1920s’ timepiece. Purposeful sequences of over dramatization are arranged in such a way that they simultaneously forward the action and plot, while still asking to be found comical. You will surely smile, possibly cringe, and definitely laugh.

Tessa Grady is a fabulous triple threat, as she plays the irrepressible Millie with perfection. Her beautiful, vibrant voice rings out with feeling and strength, while her feet fly with speed and accuracy. Not only does she perform well, her facial expressions clearly denoting her character’s thoughts, but she does so with energy and verve.

Daniel Plimpton portrays love interest, Jimmy Smith. His debonair attitude and light footwork enhance his charm, while his wonderful voice floats through the theater.

Sarah Stevens plays Millie’s new friend Miss Dorothy Brown. Her sweet naiveté, and slight accent make her instantly likeable, while her stratospheric soprano alternately adds to the harmony or the humor of her scenes.

Tim Rogan is exquisitely funny as Mr. Trevor Graydon. Both his portrayal of the self-absorbed businessman, and his diction are phenomenal.

Nicole Powell plays the famous Muzzy Van Hossmere with regal bearing, and powerhouse vocals.

Anthony Chan as Ching Ho, and Carl Hsu as Bun Foo, add another entire level of humor to the action with their antics and singing, while Michelle Ragusa is perfect as the malevolent Mrs. Meers, with a marvelous flair for the melodramatic.

The talent level involved with this production is very high. A beautiful, versatile set by designer Jonathan Collins, and absolutely fabulous costumes by Kurt Alger, make an immediate and continuous impression. Wonderful dance sequences are masterfully executed with stunning precision and synchronicity. This points not only to the skill of the cast, but also of director/choreographer Drew Humphrey, and choreographer Dena DiGiacinto. As always, the orchestra under direction from James Olmstead, performed magnificently.

With silliness, poignancy, humor and truth, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a wonderful show. Fun for all ages, this production is definitely worth seeing.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours including one 15 minute intermission.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is playing at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, until July 10, 2016. For more information, click here.

Read online at www.nytheatreguide.com/2016/05/theatre-review-thoroughly-modern-millie-at-john-w-engeman-theater/

Newsday Review: ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ review: Fun, with a caveat

Newsday
May 31, 2016
Steve Parks

WHAT “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 10, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.
TICKETS $69-$74; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

What makes Millie so thoroughly modern? She thinks marrying for money, not love, makes her a brash New Woman. But dependence on a man is hardly feminist. Still, in the Engeman Theater’s sparkly “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” 2002 Tony winner for best musical, we can forgive the title character, since it’s 1922 and women won the right to vote just two years earlier. Plus, she’s played with irresistible flapper/tapper exuberance by Tessa Gray (Roaring ’20s costumes by Kurt Alger).

Millie arrives by bus from Kansas to New York, all shiny with the metallic gleam of Jonathan Collins’ Art Deco design. The first thing she does is tear up her return ticket. Go back to Kansas? “Not for the Life of Me,” she sings with the defiant optimism of an ingénue. But where will she live in this high-rent town?

The Hotel Priscilla for Women takes in young ladies of minimal means, though there’s a catch. If the proprietor, cartoonishly sinister Mrs. Meers, finds that the girl has no family, she packs her off to a Hong Kong “white slavery” ring. Michelle Ragusa as Meers, flaunts her faux Chinese accent with the spite of an actress scorned, imposing revenge on girls who might succeed where she failed. Her accomplices, played by Anthony Chan and Carl Hsu, work in a Chinese laundry. If the stereotypes weren’t bad enough, the show’s creators — Richard Morris wrote the 1967 film screenplay, Broadway lyrics by Dick Scanlan and music by Jeanine Tesori — go too far with Al Jolson’s “Mammy” in Chinese. I’m not without a sense of humor, but I find this shtick offensive.

But back to Millie. As directed by Drew Humphrey, accompanied by James Olmstead’s period-sound orchestra, she brightens every room, including the offices at Sincere Trust, where she lands a stenography job (“Speed Test,” ably assisted by Daria DeGaetano). She intends to marry her boss, the millionaire voice of authority (Tim Rogan). But he’s smitten by Millie’s friend Dorothy, played by Sarah Stevens like the Kansas refugee in “Oz.” Meanwhile, Millie is off and on with ardent suitor Jimmy, who literally goes out on a ledge to see her in “I Turned a Corner.” Nicole Powell as a nightclub chanteuse dispenses love advice with soaring conviction in “Long as I’m Here with You.”

Despite her marry-for-money notions, Millie’s OK. The Asian subplot, not so much.

Read online at www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/thoroughly-modern-millie-review-fun-with-a-caveat

Navigation

Send this to a friend