New Victoria Theatre, Woking – until 13 May 2017
This cheerful and high spirited musical is given new life in this crowd-pleasing production, directed and choreographed by Racky Plews. Based on the 1967 film and the original 1956 British musical Chrysanthemum, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a bundle of joy with its over the top characters, tap dancing and of course bringing the 1920’s vibrantly to life.
Following the story of Millie Dillmount who moves to New York to find a rich man to marry, the musical is never one to take itself seriously and in this fabulously energetic production this is something that comes through from beginning to end.In fact, so much so to the point in which it almost becomes too excitable and it can lack in finesse in places.
Directed and choreographed by Racky Plews, the production hits the spot in terms of the comedy elements, particularly when Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush) and the two sidekicks Ching Ho and Bun Foo are involved. But in terms of the story, which is uncomplicated and slight but somehow endearing, Plews is able to keep it pacy throughout without unnecessary padding the story out.
Much of the energy of course comes from some of the extraordinary choreographed sequences, such as during ‘The Speed Test’ and ‘Not For the Life of Me’ – which while featuring much of the 1920’s flair and spirit is delivered with a modern twist that is pleasing to watch.
But sometimes the production has a tendency to get carried away with itself and that in turn means it lacks in an emotional core, particularly in the scenes involving Millie and Jimmy together which don’t give the characters enough time to connect.
However, there are some great performances that really highlight the fun and spirited nature of the musical. Joanne Clifton is comical as Millie, charmingly stubborn but good natured. Her dancing of course is mesmerising, but I was also pleasantly surprised by her vocals on ‘Jimmy’ and ‘I Turned a Corner’, performed with plenty of personality and emotion. Lucas Rush is hilarious as Mrs Meers, a character who has a similar nastiness to Miss Hannnigan from Annie, with everything exaggerated for added laughs but never unnecessarily over the top. There are also strong performances from Graham MacDuff as Trevor Graydon (who delivers a great onstage drunk scene) and Sam Barrett as Millie’s unlikely partner in romance.
Overall, this production of Thoroughly Modern Millie is a delight to the eyes (some gorgeous costumes throughout add to the glamour) and ears that makes Racky Plews production well worth seeing – it just needs a bit more of an emotional core to make it perfect.