2006 Season
“Thoroughly Modern Millie ”

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Entertainment In The Hamptons

Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Patchogue Theatre

by Roy Bradbrook

Just as The Producers started life as a film and then was translated to a stage musical, so did this frothy comedy that has had very successful runs on Broadway and in London, earning a host of awards en route. The plot – don’t expect rationality, this is the world of musical comedy after all – revolves around the exploits of Millie, a young girl from a small town in Kansas, arriving in New York in the early 1920s, ready for fame and fortune. On her way she literally bumps into Jimmie, a charming and handsome, but apparently poor and feckless guy, takes a room at a strange hotel “for young ladies,” where indigents with no family or friends stand a very good chance of being anesthetized and shipped off to white slave traffickers in Hong Kong by Mrs. Meers (a very non-politically correct caricature of a Chinese “lady”). It’s all right, she turns out to really be an American actress trying to make her fortune in disguise! Millie sets out to find a job where she can end up marrying her boss, but fate has other ideas because Mr. Graydon, her boss, has eyes for Millie’s best friend, but even that doesn’t work out as planned. Of course, everything ends up with most of the characters living happily ever after, in the best traditions of musicals of this genre.

Although much of the musical is predictable and there are not really any very memorable songs to take away with you, apart from the title song, the creators have included a number of pastiche moments that are among the best parts of the show. For example, when Millie is given a shorthand speed test, it is done to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, with W.S. Gilbert’s patter lyrics that were originally declaimed by “a model of a modern Major General,” here transformed into a test letter dictated by her boss-to-be. The tap dancing typing pool on wheeled desks adds to the fun.

During the evening, also look out for the speakeasy scene with the illicit bottle of hooch being passed along the line of girls to Tchaikowsky’s Nutcracker ballet music, and the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette McDonald-style duet, not to mention probably the only time you will be “privileged” to hear Jolson’s epic “Mammy” sung in Chinese by one of Mrs. Meers’ dastardly helpers (he turns out to really be a good guy after all).

The whole cast acts and sings with great verve and projects the imagery of the era extremely well. In the lead role of Millie, Kristin Maloney has a very good voice for the role and is charming as she rapidly turns from the small town ingénue to a modern city-girl determined to be her own person. Nick Spangler returned from his success in The Fantasticks to play Jimmie and he looked the part, but was a little stiff in his acting and his strong voice is not best suited for the light music of the role. The young ladies are all very good looking and the costumes for the entire cast were glamorous, elegant and truly evocative of the period. Charlie Parker (that’s not a misprint) as Muzzy van Hossmere, who befriends Millie, has one of the better songs to sing and she delivers “Only in New York” with great style. The infamous Mrs. Meers is played right to the edge by Susan Jacks; the same goes for Tina Johnson as Miss Flannery, the shrewish head of the typing pool. Gary Lindemann is a correctly officious boss as Mr. Graydon, who lapses into an alcoholic haze when stood up by Cristin Mortensen, as the upper class Miss Dorothy who wants to experience how the other half lives. In fact, she is drugged by Mrs. Meers, then rescued by one of Meers’ Chinese staff who has fallen in love with Dorothy. Add in the show-stealing Chinese couple of Kelvin Moon Loh and Adrian Pena speaking in Mandarin, translated into visual surtitles above the set, and you will see that this is really a musical farce performed at high speed with lots of glamorous girls and handsome men tap dancing their way through to the finale.

There may be a message somewhere in the script but don’t look too hard for it – this is not Les Miz or Miss Saigon. It is escapism with some genuine laughs.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is showing at the Patchogue Theatre. Performances run Tues.-Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m., matinees every Thurs at 2 p.m. Tickets $36-42 adults, $25 for children 12 and under. Patchogue Theatre, 71 E. Main Street, Patchogue. 631-286-1133.

Long Island Advance

Millie Is Simply Marvelous

Gateway’s latest shines on the grand stage of the Patchogue Theatre

By Brian Curry
July 13, 2006

It has been done a million times before: Innocent, slightly naïve girl arrives in the big city.  Within minutes some terrible tragedy has befallen her, but somehow she dusts herself off and takes on the bad metropolis and all it throws at her and wins.

So why do people keeping writing stuff like this?  And why do people keep coming to see stuff like this?  And why do people keep coming to see stuff like that?  Well, one very good answer can be found in a very thorough, very modern girl named Millie who is simply marvelous.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is the Gateway Playhouse’s current offering showing at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts.  Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 Julie Andrews movie of the same name, and on Broadway it won Best Musical along with five other Tony Awards in 2002.  Richard Morris, the movie’s screenwriter, also wrote the book for the play.  And there’s nothing better than a wide open, toe-tapping bright and shiny musical if everything is working out right.  Well, this Millie is operating with all cylinders firing and all pistons moving.  Where do I start?

The choreography is damn near flawless.  The fact that it’s local girl Mary Giattino’s (Stage Door Dance Studio) baby only adds to the flair.  With timeless tapping and wonderful flapping, the dancing is infectious.  Giattino choreographed Gateway’s 42nd Street and assisted on Evita, and her increasing resume just continues to shine.

All that exhilarating dancing is made the better by the great period costumes (circa 1920) brought together by artistic director Robin Joy Allan and the fantastic dead-on art deco sets by scenic designer Kelly Tighe.  The show is directed by John MacInnis, a former Gateway actor himself who knows this material as good as anybody else since he was in the original cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway.

Who have I left out?  Oh yeah, the actors!  Millie herself is played with just the right amount of spunk and resolve by Kristin Maloney (last seen at the Gateway in Meet Me In St Louis).  Her love interest is played by Nick Spangler, who never even had to change dressing rooms since he just appeared in Gateway’s last show, The Fantasticks.  They’re in great voice together with an easy chemistry that makes you smile.

While we all know our star-crossed lovers are going to find each other at the end, it’s how they arrive at the point that will make or break our play-going enjoyment.  Here too, Thoroughly Modern Millie has all the bases covered with supporting roles that elevate our campy, fluffy plot line to something we care about even if it’s just to go along for the fun-filled ride.

Susan Jacks as the evil hotel owner Mrs. Meers is a howl.  Her two assistants (Kelvin Moon Loh and Adrian Pena) are responsible for the first song I ever heard sung in Chinese…with English subtitles on the Gateway (or any other) stage.  Hey, it works!

But that’s not all.  Tina Johnson as Millie’s immediate supervisor and Gary Lindemann (so good in Superstar) as her boss and future husband material, offer tons of comic relief and some funny musical numbers.  Cristin Mortenson as Millie’s best friend who has a secret does it all.  Good voice, great dancer and a desire to see how the other half lives.

But to elevate a big musical to the next level, you need that special ensemble.  And though space restrictions do not allow me to name them one by one, they are simply fantastic with legs kicking and voices singing, plus they do it all with a great big wide smile. 

None of these songs are keepers but they are fun and certainly tell the story, but my Scene Stealer award goes to sultry, sassy, bluesy singer Muzzy Van Hossmere, played to a tee by Charlie Parker.  She belts out “Only In New York” like she owns the place.

And that’s the thing about somebody like Millie, a Kansas farm girl like that can only make it in a town like New York and that’s lucky for us.

Gateway’s Thoroughly Modern Millie will run at the Patchogue Theatre For The Performing Arts through July 22.  For show dates, tickets, or further information, contact the Gateway Playhouse at 286-1133 or visit them on the web at www.gatewayplayhouse.com.

South Shore Press

Thoroughly Modern Millie Is Thoroughly Enjoyable

By Genevieve Salamone and Jennifer C. Roller

Thoroughly Modern Millie, a production of the Gateway Playhouse, now playing through Saturday, July 22, at the Patchogue Theatre, is a quirky story about a small town girl who comes to the big city with stars in her eyes and not a penny to her name.  Millie is on a mission: to become as “modern” as the women in her favorite magazine, Vogue.

Playing the starring role as Millie is Kristin Maloney – but don’t be thrown off by her seemingly small stature.  Maloney undertakes a role that demands the actress sing and dance virtually non-stop throughout both acts.  Maloney is no novice when it comes to belting, as her powerhouse voice landed her the roles of Eva Peron (Evita) and Mary Magdalene (Jesus Christ Superstar), which both require a big voice. 

Playing opposite the powerful character of Millie is Jimmy Smith (Nick Spangler, The Fantasticks), who the audience first glimpses as the devil-may-care playboy enjoying his youth and, uh, virility.  We instantly take a liking to Jimmy’s boyish good looks and easy stage presence, but we fall in love with Jimmy/Nick once he opens his mouth to sing.  Spangler’s seamless vocal range adds to Jimmy’s overall smoothness and when it coems time to spread his arms and belt to the rafters, Spangler definitely delivers.

Charlie Parker demanded the audience’s complete attention when she stepped on stage as Muzzy van Hossmere, a singer who started out with nothing, to sing her ode to New York, complete with a truly booming final note.  Parker’s vocals are truly extraordinary and fit right in with this vocally charged cast. 

Cristin Mortenson, as the charming and perfectly naïve Miss Dorothy, was endearing.  The duet between Millie and Miss Dorothy sets the stage for the girls’ search to find their perfect mates in the big city.  Miss Dorothy seems to be everything Millie is not, and vice versa, which, ironically, ignites a fast friendship between the two.

Reminiscent of 42nd Street, the show was filled with tap-dancing girls (despite the “No Tapping In Lobby” sign at Mrs. Meers’ hotel) and smiling, fleet-footed men who brought the choreographer’s vision to life.

Director John MacInnis kept much of the original staging in his production, but also allowed for the actors to add a little bit of themselves into their songs and scenes.  The mid-scene addition of a window ledge just outside Millie’s office window sets the stage perfectly for “I Turned The Corner,” just as the subtitles used during the dialogues of Bun Foo and Ching Ho, bellhops at Mrs. Meers’ hotel, were executed perfectly, and really added some extra laughs to their trio “Muqin,” with Mrs. Meers.

Tickets for Gateway’s Thoroughly Modern Millie are on sale now and can be purchased at the Gateway’s box office in Bellport, by phone at 1-888-4-TIX-NOW or on the web at www.gatewayplayhouse.com.

Southampton Press

'Millie' a Reliable Marvel in Patchogue

By Lee Davis
July 13, 2006

Well, the formula is certainly set in spangles: Out of town girl comes to New York. Wants to make good. Makes good. Loves wrong man. Finds right man. Loves right man. Curtain.

Ever since “42nd Street” burst upon the black and white screen, its plot has become glorious grist for all sorts of takeoffs, and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” begins in that tradition. But in fairly rapid acceleration, it ascends into a sendup of all 1920s musicals, throwing in, for good measure, white slavery, mistaken identity, Chinese comedians, and Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald versions of Victor Herbert standards.

There are three ingredients that keep this show’s tongue firmly in its cheek and its forward motion aloft. First, a dynamite dancing chorus, and this the current Gateway production at the Patchogue Theatre has. Second, a firm grip on the satirical bent of the piece. At the press opening in Patchogue last Friday, this didn’t really kick in until the beginning of the second act, which accounted for the dearth of laughs from the audience in Act One and the delighted abundance of them in Act Two.

And third, a charismatic, sweet, dancing fool to play Millie. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” had a ready-made one in Julie Andrews in the original film. And it made a star of Sutton Foster in the Broadway version. At Gateway, the ingredients meet tidily in Kristen Maloney, absolutely adorable in a gamine-ish way.

Though she has neither the height of Andrews nor the long legs and endless extensions of Foster, she makes up for them in full voltage energy, a thousand-watt smile and at least 10 bushels of charm.

So. If director John MacInnes can inject some more fun into Act One, this should be a first rate production of this wacky if not altogether wonderful musical. Certainly choreographer Mary Giattino does her part in the nearly non-stop dancing. Following the old musical comedy axiom, “when in doubt, tap,” she has her willing and airborne chorus tapping their hearts and soles (that’s not a misprint) out.

“All the world’s troubles began when they stopped making tap dancing movies,” a wise friend of mine once said, and it goes double for the stage, too, where it’s more than easy to forget your troubles, c’mon and get tappy. The choreography of Ms. Giattino manages to work in the tap and soft shoe clichés without becoming a cliché itself, and musical director Fred Barton conducts Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan’s largely undistinguished score with zest and zing.

Kelly Tighe’s set makes use of the extended Patchogue space nicely, except for a fragile looking false proscenium that steadfastly refuses to do anything but suck up Marcia Madeira’s workable lighting design. Marianne Dominy’s costumes are a throwback delight.

The large cast is hardworking and merrily energetic, and the principals mine the comedy with varying degrees of success.

Susan J. Jacks, saddled with one of the worst oriental wigs since wigs were invented, is suitably vampirish as the evil Mrs. Meers, white slaver, landlady and mother not so superior. Her counterpart—at the office in which Millie is employed as assistant to a bank president she hopes to wed—is done to high comic dudgeon by Tina Johnson. Kelvin Moon Loh and Adrian Pena, as Ching Ho and Bun Foo, the secondary Chinese comedians employed by Mrs. Meers, carry off their low comedy with airy timing, particularly in the scenes that involve supertitles—a hilarious device.

Cristin Mortenson, as Miss Dorothy Brown, is a gorgeous innocent who becomes Millie’s best chum. Straight out of a Gibson Girl poster, she’s hayseed charm personified, and her high flying operetta duets with Gary Lindemann, as the stuffy (until he meets Dorothy and morphs into Nelson Eddy) bank president, are high points of the show, done with on target, full-bodied satire, a la the high standards for low comedy of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Nick Spangler is a handsome and rich voiced juvenile, the real love of Millie’s life, and he dances up a storm, too.

The spot that stops the show belongs to Charlie Parker, as the brassy voiced socialite Muzzy van Hossmere. Her first act next-to-closing number, “Only in New York,” is a sure-fire roof-raiser, which Ms. Parker trumpets with the force of a tornado. She’s a major talent.

And so, potentially, is the very young and very adorable and fiercely hardworking Kristin Maloney. As long as there are roles for dancing, flashing eyed and delectable gamines, she should have a future as bright as her smile.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues every night but Mondays and with numerous matinées through July 22 at the Patchogue Theater venue of the Gateway Playhouse. The box office number is 286-5806.


Thoroughly nostalgic, thoroughly goofy farces

July 20, 2006

If you've had your fill of dark, operatic musicals about murderous barbers, pimps and drug dealers, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" rides to the throwback rescue, fittingly presented in a former vaudeville house in Patchogue.

Even if you haven't had your fill, you may find the show's borrowed score nostalgically goofy fun. Never mind the political incorrectness. "Mammy" sung in Chinese? I dare you not to laugh, or at least smirk.

Millie, an irresistible, spunky ingenue played by Kristin Maloney, arrives from Kansas not to become a star but to marry rich. That's what makes her "modern" in 1922: matrimony as a business arrangement. She dazzles her unattached boss (a comically obtuse Gary Lindemann) with her typing and steno skills in the seated tap-dance number, "Speed Test," a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan (precision choreography by Mary Giattino).

Millie finds inspiration in a chanteuse (Charlie Parker) who belts out "Only in New York," which the girl from Kansas misconstrues as a marry-for-money anthem. But, as usual, love complicates. Millie falls for a dimeless hustler, Jimmy (an energetically charming Nick Spangler), along the way foiling a white-slavery ring in which Mrs. Meers (Susan Jacks), posing as a Chinese hotelier, kidnaps female orphans. Broadly exchanging R's for L's and vice versa, she plots to nab Millie's roommate, Dorothy (Cristin Mortenson, fanning herself with batting eyelashes).

Exposition of the layered yet paper-thin plot causes the first act to drag. But director John MacInnis finds his stride as the musical melodrama cascades to a thoroughly predictable sunshine ending.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
Copyright © 2006 Gateway Playhouse