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'Thoroughly Modern Millie" at Sunset Playhouse

Production revives the roaring '20's.

Jul. 20, 2015
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Based on the 1967 film, Sunset Playhouse’s rendition of Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the tale of small-town girl Millie Dillmount who moves to the Big Apple to marry for money rather than love. Millie checks into the Hotel Priscilla where the owner, Mrs. Meers, is involved in a white slave trade operation that abducts young actresses who have no family connections. The musical is set during the roaring ‘20s, a time of prosperity, prohibition, and flapper girls. This tale of love, betrayal, and the struggles of living on your own opened on Broadway in 2002 and gone on to win six Tony awards.

Few props are utilized in the opening scene as Millie makes her entrance, with the exception of two suitcases being held by the main character the backdrops are plain. The lack of visual distraction allows the audience to focus on getting to know the characters. Millie, played by Rachelle Elbert, opened the show with the jazzy “Not for the Life of Me”; though slow at first it gained momentum, getting the full attention of the audience. Several other key characters accompanied Millie throughout the duration of the opening number as well as the rest of the show including the handsome Jimmy Smith (Benjamin Johnson), the adorable California gal Dorothy Harris (Kaitlyn Serketich) and the mischievous hotel owner Mrs. Meers (Ava Thomann) who sometimes stole the show. Not only was her character humorous, but Thomann proved a powerful, show-stopping singer. Her two sidekicks Ching Ho and Bun Foo further enhanced the hilarity of the musical.

The second half of the show opens with Millie seeing Jimmy leaving the hotel room of her good friend Ms. Dorothy. She is torn between wanting to marry her wealthy boss Mr. Trevor Graydon for his money or whether to follow her heart. Contrary to the first half, the second half is played more like a drama than a musical as the characters faced the troubles of life in the big city.

One of the evening’s final numbers of the evening was a solo piece performed by Millie, “Gimme Gimme.” At this point of the show, she has realized that perhaps love rather than money is the key to true happiness. Elbert’s performance was incredible on an emotional level. The combination of the song and her tender voice spoke to the audience in a way that made her character seem genuine and almost made the audience want to empathize with her.

A combination of catchy tunes, passionate acting, simple (yet well-executed) choreography and an intimate setting made for a pleasant experience.

Through Aug. 9 at Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Road. For tickets visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com or call (262) 782-4431.

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