There must have been a fire sale recently at Music Theater International, licensor of American musicals, with serious price slashing for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
Why else would so many theatres across the nation be staging a musical with a plot so byzantine and songs so absurdly below George Gershwin's brilliance -- a show that would normally be dropped like third period algebra?
But even The New Candlelight Theatre is running it. Aisle Say is not criticizing Candlelight by any means. With dinner theatre profit margins what they are, management must do whatever it needs to survive.
New Candlelight Dinner Theatre presents Thoroughly Modern Millie
Through Oct. 10
Aug. 23 Special: Buy one matinee buffet/show combo, get one half off
For times & tickets: NewCandlelighttheatre.com 302.475.2313
In this case, they have done it with surprising originality and fresh humor.
"Millie," set in 1922, tells the story of a young woman who has just come to New York City in search of a new life, just as women were entering the workforce and the rules of love and social behavior were changing forever.
In this rendition, the always-energetic Candlelight cast has provided Aisle Say with a first in our career as an audience member: an amusing duet done completely in Chinese (well, pidgin Chinese) by Brian Peeke and Reza Mirsajadi.
The show features a hilarious Gilbert and Sullivan patter song takeoff, “The Speed Test” sung by Millie (Erica Scanlon Harr), Graydon (Patrick O'Hara) and the ensemble.
Director Micki Sharpe's portrayal of an Oriental landlord brought visions of Charlie Chan movies before PC. Her accent was inconsistent and she actually pronounced several “r's.”
Harr and Dorothy Brown (Megan Pisors) far and away hold the honors vocally in their ingénue parts, while Jillian Pirtle as Muzzy Van Hossmere – a character that appears from left field further substantiating the lunacy of the story – is part Bessie Smith, part Josephine Baker as a nightclub chanteuse.
Harr, (Laurey in NCT's “Oklahoma”) has a beautiful musical theatre voice, while Pisors is more operatically trained. The two make for an interesting combination. For those familiar with Mama Rose's show-stopping number from “Gypsy” entitled “Rose's Turn,” Harr had a similar tour de force with “Jimmy” to end Act I.
Behind the scenes
Pirtle's costumes were period-specific and gorgeous.
Choreographer Valerie Smith Byron's inventive choreography made the most of 11 talented tappers, and dancers doing different moves in the same music.
Artistic Director Chris Alberts continues to impress with both his stylistic set design and enchanting ability to make effects that one would not think possible through lighting.