As someone raised on West End musicals, I’ve grown used to grand spectacles, produced on a huge scale and a big budget, with lavish sets and an army of stage crew. It never would have occurred to me that you could present a show of that kind in a fringe theatre, with a cast of twelve and a band of five. Yet Thoroughly Modern Millie, at the tiny and intimate Landor Theatre, does just that – and is easily as entertaining as any of those big productions.
Derived in 2002 from the 1967 Julie Andrews movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie is thoroughly old fashioned. It’s sexist: all the women are actresses or typists; racist: landlady Mrs Meers feigns orientalism and speaks pantomime Cantonese to her migrant Hong Kong laundrymen; heteronormative: every flapper’s ambition is to secure a rich businessman husband and even white slavery is dismissed as “well, it’s one way to get a man”, but so heartwarming and jolly you can almost forgive its cartoon morality.