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Cappies: A thoroughly marvelous musical

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 2, 2012 - As the lights come up, a small-town Kansas dreamer stands alone in the Big Apple — and in a whirl of short dresses and a sea of bobbed hair, the girl transforms into a thoroughly modern woman of the 1920s. As the musical progresses, Notre Dame High School has the audience transfixed by this “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

In 1922 New York, life was hopping. In the midst of the idealization of flapper style, women’s workforce and the “new woman,” many people flocked to the Big Apple — among them Millie Dillmount. Based on the movie from 1967, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” opened on Broadway in 2002 and won six Tony Awards.

The main character, Millie, arrives in the big city aspiring to become a flapper and marry for money. The latter goal, however, proves difficult as she falls in love with the destitute Jimmy Smith, and other plot complications arise. For even as Millie struggles with the matters of the heart, a sinister plot to kidnap Millie’s orphaned best friend Dorothy brews beneath the surface.

One notable aspect of the show was the energy level and talent of every person  onstage, from the large ensembles of the show to the exceptional lead actors. Of the lead actors, Carly Uding as Millie was a particularly noteworthy actress in her exceptional vigor and dancing ability. Her romantic interests – Bryant Woods as Jimmy Smith and J.P. de Legarreta as Trevor Graydon – also proved to be exceptional performers, with Woods and Uding displaying an enticing chemistry.

The supporting cast also showed remarkable talent and stage presence. Claire Zimmerman as antagonist Mrs. Meers was particularly entertaining in her infuriatingly fiendish and often comedic display of character. Her mamma’s boy subordinates Ching Ho and Bun Foo (Thomas Hederman and Mark Kuehner) displayed exceptional ability in their fluid Mandarin and spot-on acting that brought much laughter to the show. Also noteworthy was Katherine Potts as Muzzy Van Hossmere, who simply oozed her benevolent high-society character and whose confidence was palpable.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” had a productive backstage crew that maintained the performance’s believability and pace. Multiple impressively designed sets were used throughout, and scene changes were approached briskly and efficiently. Despite a large cast, the costume crew did a remarkable job finding costumes appropriate to the time period.

There were very few aspects of the show that could have been enhanced. Although the general lighting was well done, spotlights were shaky and sometimes wandered. There were also a few back-to-the-audience moments, but blocking was usually effective.

In all, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was an excellent production that had the audience crying for Notre Dame High School to “Gimme Gimme” some more. If anyone has not seen it, “They Don’t Know” what a riot they missed out on; and for those who have, they are not soon to “Forget About the Boy”s and girls who made up this thoroughly marvelous musical.

Allie Hult is a student at Holt High School