Catonsville’s Heritage Players have created a joyful jazz-age romp in their production of Thoroughly Modern Millie now appearing through April 24th at the Rice Auditorium on the campus of Spring Grove Hospital Center. Directed by TJ Lukacsina with Musical Direction by Carolyn Freel, this musical will bring you some feel good music to tap your toes to all throughout the evening. Based on the 1967 film, Millie is a delightful song-and-dance melodrama by Dick Morris and Richard Scanlan which unapologetically demolishes the boundaries of political correctness in its depiction of Chinese white-slavery. Its yellow-face minstrelsy is pre-postmodern cringe-worthy but in the hands of Director TJ Lukacsina we are coaxed into riding along, and rewarded for it.
It’s 1922, and Millie Dillmount – performed exuberantly by Lucy Bobbin – has been mugged on her first day in New York City and realizes that she isn’t in Kansas anymore. A chance meeting with wisecracking stranger Jimmy Smith (Garrett Matthews) leads her to a women’s rooming house and a reshaping of her hairstyle and values. Millie takes her blank resume into the workforce, where she finds boss Trevor Graydon III (Richard Greenslit) and tries her secretarial darndest to type-cast herself as marriage material.
Danger awaits back at the Priscilla Hotel, however, as the evil Tiger Lady (pardon us, that’s tiger rady) Mrs. Meers (Mandolin Roberts) – plies a variety of “mysteries of the orient” while attempting to explain the sudden disappearance of many of her guests. Would-be victim Dorothy (JilliAnne McCarty) befriends Millie and together the two broke girls find love while searching for careers and an open speakeasy. They manage to latch on to high society in the person of merry widow Muzzy Von Hossmere (wonderfully songful Lauren Lowell), who has lessons to offer. And in perfect execution of the classic melodrama format a swirl of plot twists and revelations bring it all in for a soft landing.
Bobbin’s Millie and Matthews’ Jimmy have wonderful stage chemistry and both are gifted singers. The show’s comic leads, Roberts and Greenslit, steal their scenes with perfectly over-the-top delivery. In fact, no one is lost in this cast of 22; clever scenery (conceived by Scenic Designer Ryan Geiger) and smart choreography (designed by Choreographers Rebekka Meyers and Angela Stein)— including the members of the secretarial pool joining to form a huge typewriter tableau— perfectly supports a group of unabashedly enthusiastic performers throughout.
Heritage Players is a charitable community theater company, and as such will donate a portion of the ticket sales to Spring Grove Hospital Center and to the Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to fighting contemporary (if not “modern”) slavery.
Thoroughly Modern Millie plays through April 24, 2016 at Heritage Players in the Rice Auditorium of the Spring Grove Hospital Campus— 55 Wade Avenue in Catonsville, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.