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/

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