THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Exit 22, Capilano University, March 16th - 25th
By Kelly Moncton
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a lovely, light musical written with a mix of old-fashioned style and more up-to-date plot twists. Cap Theatre’s production does a fine job of embracing the over-the-top atmosphere, without
losing the show’s heart.
Based on a 60’s movie starring Julie Andrews, the story revolves around a small-town girl moving to New York in the 20s. The Exit 22 technical team did a great job of bringing the setting to life with a dramatic skyline set and colourful flapper dresses.
Millie’s ‘modern’ plan is to get a job, and marry her boss. Emily Matchette balanced that ambition and new-girl vulnerability well in the title role. She kept up with all the demanding dancing and singing, and really wowed me with her big belt at the end of “Gimme Gimme”. I was worried when Blake Sartin seemed a bit too weak as her love interest, Jimmy, in the opening scene, but his lovely singing and charm won me over as the show progressed. With flighty mannerisms and impeccable high notes, Jennifer Gillis was charming as the naive sidekick, Miss Dorothy. Kurtis D’Aoust, playing the efficiency-obsessed boss, was masterful in his performance of the tongue-twister Speed Test song.
The big production numbers are particularly strong, with great energy and precision in the singing and dancing. The only drawback I noticed was that some performers seemed to be thinking more than they acted during some tricky moments, but that concern will probably disappear later in the run. The stern stenographers, led by a beautifully silly Andrea Pizarro, were particularly fun to watch as a group. Later on, the ensemble also shone with silliness when their mug shots were being taken. Caleb Lagayan stood out for me in the group scenes with strong choices and an ability to
make the ridiculous look natural.
There’s something about a good villain, and Rachel Theilade did a beautiful job with Mrs Meers. There’s a great deal of racism built into her character, but Rachel’s portrayal kept things theatrical, rather than mean. I loved her henchmen, with Katrina Teitz’s acrobatics, and Max Kim’s heart on his sleeve. They made me wish their parts were bigger.
A couple great moments seemed underplayed to me, like an elevator that only works when you tap-dance, and lines about losing your personality when you subscribe to trends. Still, there was plenty of fun spectacle and satisfying sweet moments in this production.
Go watch some up-and-coming talent at Capilano!
By Penny Warwick
Thoroughly Modern Millie is my first Exit 22 outing; as Capilano University’s Company I was anticipating a school production feel and certainly the overture montage took me back to my university version of Guys and Dolls, a flurry of activity and caricature street folk welcoming the audience into the magic of musical theatre *insert twinkle sound effect*. However as the show went on it became clear that although these are young performers in training there is a high level of talent which has become synonymous with Capilano’s Musical Theatre programme that can not be denied.
Millie is a musical straight out of the new-classic genre having only opened on Broadway in 2002 (and being based on the 1967 film of the same name), it is a musical that whisks the audience back in time in a very safe way - really - there is not a stitch of real drama in the story which is a bit bizarre when a large through-line is that of Mrs. Meers the evil and conniving Hostel owner who drugs and traffics young actresses for presumably sexual purposes. Ha! But what a joke! This is musical theatre after all! Let’s throw in a convoluted, and not perfectly choreographed, passing of the poisoned apple for good measure! Alas, we all know musicals of this ilk do not like to dwell on the drama.
The comedy is handled handsomely. Every scene occurring in the Sincere Trust is an absolute triumph. The tap choreography by far the most polished element in this production and the Stenogs provide some truly fantastic facial expressions at the most opportune moments with the scenes driven brilliantly by Andrea Pizarro as Miss Flannery.
The lead roles are cast well, Emily Matchette gives the meaty role of Millie a great amount of energy; Blake Sartin has the right amount of swagger-to-softness for Jimmy; as Mrs. Meers I loved Rachel Theilade’s physicality and pantomine-villianess levity; Kurtis D’Aoust’s take on ‘The Speed Test’ is almost worth a standing ovation of it’s own. The stand out in the show without a doubt is Jennifer Gillis – from the moment she steps foot on the stage as Miss Dorothy Brown she commands your attention and is close to flawless in her performance, and by gosh, that woman can belt her high notes.
That being said - the big congratulations in this production, as with many musicals, really belongs to the ensemble. It is a huge production and every single person takes each moment they can to shine demonstrated in the aforementioned quirky faces of the Stenogs and the individual mugshot pose choices. The brothers Bun Foo and Ching Ho (played by Katrina Teitz and Max Kim) are the epitome of Stanislavski’s assertion “there are no small parts, only small actors”; every scene with them was brilliant and as a direct result it was very frustrating that due to the screen placement for their subtitles the audience was constantly forced to make a choice between looking far left to read the words or to look to the stage to appreciate their performance. A real shame.
The choreography is mostly slick, with only occasional choppy moments, usually involving a background hip-bump in time with the music as a scene continues which often led as a distraction of mixed times or directions rather than a clean, stylised device. The direction certainly does not break any moulds, but is ample for the needs of this production.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is bright, bubbly and these young performers certainly deserve large crowds and large applause.