The first thing I did after seeing The Village Players in Birmingham’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was get online and order more tickets for another performance. Its that great. Then I sent text messages to friends to tell them how wonderful this production is. And then I had a very very long drive home from way up there in Birmingham…so you should get online right now and order your tickets before there aren’t any left.
Kudos to director Kevin Lee Branshaw, Choreographer Valerie Mould, and Musical Director (and conductor of offstage orchestra) Dennis Penney for getting everything right with this production.
Then, head directly to the cast list and send bouquets to the stellar leads of this production: in particular, Kimberly Elliott as Millie sings, acts, and tap dances the heck out of her numbers and looks fantastic doing so in some of the prettiest costumes this side of the Hudson…and Sterling Orlowski who allows his Jimmy Smith to grow from likeable to lovable over the course of the evening. His numbers with Elliott sizzle.
But so does everything else. The supporting players are superb from top to bottom, and the all-singing all-dancing all-costume-changing ensemble is too…be that prat-falling and mischief-making (Beverly J. Dickinson as Mrs Meers), singing to the rafters (Noelle Perrin as Dorothy), satirizing matinee-idol B-leads (Jason Bowen as Trevor Graydon) or tap-dancing their hearts out (more intricate for the leads, a bit more simplified for the ensemble).
A cadre of what looks to be about 7000 people did the costumes for the show — and it shows. Every major ensemble number has matching clothing of different colors (one of the things some local theaters around here can take a lesson from), be that blues and purples to black-and-whites later, and all out color-palettes later in the show. Red plays an important role here. So does Blue. And so does Yellow. Bravo. I can’t imagine the budget involved here. (For the record, it’s not an inexpensive show to produce).
The orchestra sounds terrific, and its mixed well with the singers. Which is fortunate, because I need to assign minus points for the sound folks who couldn’t get control of body mics that kept dropping out…fortunately, those effected were loud enough that you could hear them without their mics when that happened. Still it was an annoyance that very much marred the otherwise superior quality of this production.
Seeing the show for the first time in a decade (I saw it in NYC with Sutton Foster in the lead — uncannily channeled by Ms Elliott in this production, and then a few years later on tour) it reminded me of why Millie won 6 Tony Awards in 2002, including Best Musical. Without a single pop/rock chord or rhythm in the entire score, its a throwback to classic musicals — but with a modern sensibility thrown in. And its a breath of fresh air in a time when pop rock scores rule Broadway.
So for now, Millie rules Woodward. And you should absolutely not miss it — even if it takes you an hour to get there from Ann Arbor….
Thoroughly Modern Millie continues at The Village Players through May 24th. Tickets at birminghamvillageplayers.com
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