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.

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