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REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie sure to bring out the inner flapper

Flapper style - Thoroughly Modern Millie is on stage at the St. Jacobs County Play House until July 23.
Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri

REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie sure to bring out the inner flapper

by Jaime Myslik

WATERLOO - Girl power is at an all-time high in the St. Jacob’s Country Playhouse as Thoroughly Modern Millie delights audiences with witty dialogue, flashy dance numbers and a truly unexpected twist.

The twenties-inspired musical romance keeps the audience on its toes guessing just what shenanigans Millie and her friends will get into next.

Young Millie Dillmount arrives in 1922 New York City searching for a new life but after a complete makeover she is promptly mugged. Undeterred, her mission is to land a job as a secretary for a wealthy man and convince him to marry her.

She quickly moves into Hotel Priscillia, which is not what it seems, falls for a poor man she met on her first day and has no success in convincing her handsome, rich boss that he’s actually in love with her.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a musical, comedy and romance all rolled into one fabulous package.

Leading lady Jayme Armstrong is spot on as the quirky and strong Millie Dillmount. Her facial expressions throughout the entire show are spot on adding an indescribable amount of depth to the already endearing character. Armstrong is also able to effectively convey tone and emotion in every song she sings.

But the brilliance is in the details. After the opening scene Armstrong is left with only one shoe. Instead of trying to even out her gait she exaggerates the difference in height between her high-heel-clad foot and her stocking foot setting the tone for the humour to come.

In another scene Armstrong is required to sit stock still while Anwyn Musico as Dorothy Brown, Millie’s best friend, and Brent Thiessen as Millie’s boss Trevor Graydon, share a duet. Armstrong never moves a muscle looking more like a statue prop than leading lady.

Scene stealer Kristin Peace seems to thrive in the role of Mrs. Meers, the evil owner of Hotel Priscillia.

However, in her opening scene the audience is left unsure why a non-Chinese actor is putting on an over-exaggerated, stereotypical and offensive fake Chinese accent. However, as the show continues it becomes abundantly clear that, no matter how uncomfortable, the fake accent is part of the script and intentional.

Each time Peace appears on stage she steals the audience’s eyes and had members murmuring “what is she up to now.” The conniving hotel manager certainly kept the rest of the cast, and the audience, on their toes.

Zach Trimmer, playing Millie’s wannabe love interest Jimmy Smith, exudes a carefree, go with the flow attitude, which is the perfect foil to Millie’s strictly planned life.

Mrs. Meers’ henchmen Neil Salinas and Ryota Kaneko bring humour to the stage and speak Chinese for the majority of the show. However, during their song and dance numbers Drayton Entertainment ran subtitles so the audience wouldn’t lose the necessary story details. However, it was far from pleasant to read subtitles for at least two musical numbers. While a valiant effort to incorporate a different language Drayton Entertainment fell short of the mark adding an inconvenience and uncomfortable atmosphere to an otherwise easy flowing and funny show.

While all cast members were spot on the real stars of the show were director and choreographer Michael Lichtefeld along with set designer and costume coordinator Ivan Brozic.

The pair managed to simulate an elevator that would only move if the occupants tap danced, a window ledge where Trimmer did a fabulous job making the audience uncomfortable thinking he really was walking on the edge in danger of falling and an office setting that was busy with movement.

But the set and chorography highlight was when the stenographers were using type writers at Sincere Trust Insurance Company, where Millie works. By using tap shoes and desks on wheels Lichtefeld masterfully choreographed a dynamic dance scene while also expertly simulating the tap, tap, tap of the typewriter. The scene is not to be missed.  

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a gem in Drayton Entertainment’s 2017 lineup.

Regular performance tickets are $46 for adults and $27 for youth under 20 years of age.

Tickets for select discount dates and groups of 20 or more are $37. HST is applicable to all ticket prices.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is on stage until July 23. Tickets may be purchased in person at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the box office at 519-747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

 

July 14, 2017

 
 

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