‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’
Sunset Playhouse revives the roaring ’20s
Based on the 1967 film, Sunset Playhouse’s rendition of Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the tale of small-town girl Millie Dillmont 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 went 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 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 to be 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 following her heart. Contrary to the first half, the second half is played more like a drama than a musical as the characters face the troubles of life in the big city.
One of the final numbers of the evening was a solo piece performed by Millie, “Gimme, Gimme.” At this point of the show, she realizes 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.
Sunset Playhouse’s Thoroughly Modern Millie runs through Aug. 9 at the Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Road For tickets, visit sunsetplayhouse.com or call 262-782-4431.