Costumes aren’t usually the first thing mentioned in a review but, wow, are Michael Pakledinaz’s sensational in this first UK touring production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. It’s worth the price of admission just to get a glimpse of those dresses (though you might wonder how the poor working girl characters managed such extravagance). And the boys aren’t forgotten either, appearing superbly elegant in white suits and hats.
Taken from the 1967 film of the same name and set during the Roaring Twenties, the musical centres on Kansas girl Millie, who has come to New York determined to become a thoroughly modern miss. She wants to “raise her skirts and bob her hair”, get a job as a stenographer and marry her boss. But things don’t work out as she plans – do they ever?
As Millie, Donna Steele (who filled in for Amanda Holden in the West End production) uses her very expressive features to great effect. There’s a truly happy ending, with a twist which didn’t appear in the film, but before that, we zip through myriad Millie adventures, including kidnapping, white slave trafficking, and a glitterati party hosted by Muzzy Van Hossmere (Grace Kennedy – not the greatest in the acting department but her blues number “Only in New York” sends shivers down the spine).
Lesley Joseph plays sinister Mrs Meers, the failed thesp turned proprietor of the Priscilla Hotel for young ladies. “Given the right wig I can play anything” is no idle boast from the versatile Joseph, who plays it for pure laughs with an atrocious Chinese accent.
Not that she’s alone in providing the comedy. There’s a hilarious number between boss Trevor Graydon (a superbly pompous Andrew Kennedy) and Miss Dorothy (Robyn North) when they meet and fall instantly in love, while poor Millie looks on forlornly. Richard Reynard is Millie’s true love, Jimmy, very believable as a multi-millionaire in disguise.
Beth Eden’s slick production is made all the slicker still by Rob Ashford and Chris Bailey’s inventive and energetic choreography, exuberantly performed, and David Gallo’s exceptional set design that moves us swiftly and seamlessly from location to location, including a window ledge outside an office block.
The whole show is a triumph of comedy, music, dance – and clothes! Highly recommended for a great night’s entertainment.
- Sheila Ann Connor (reviewed at Churchill Theatre, Bromley)