Saturday, July 07, 2007

Review of Thoroughly Modern Millie

I was lucky enough to have the energy to go see Golden Stone Production's inaugural production of Thoroughly Modern Millie last night at SUNY Ulster's Quimby Theater.

Golden Stone Productions, as I've mentioned previously, is a new community theater group in ulster county only started four months ago. They have done a stunning job.

Millie is a wonderful musical comedy (plot synopsis here) and a typical rags to riches love story.

I found the show to be an incredible first effort for a new theater group - It is amazing that the group has not only organized in such a short time, but also has put together such a large scale show as well.

I enjoyed the show immensely. It was well cast, with each role being played by actors who fit the roles so well. The cast was all terrific but I especially enjoyed Jenn Kelly (Millie), Susan Lombard (Muzzy), Susan Geis (Mrs. Meers) and Lindsay Michaels (Ruth) - Lindsay especially was memorable.

Direction and Choreography by Herman Sebek and Andy Paluselli was very good also. I especially loved the tap typing number and the curtain call was unique and entertaining also.

The set and the drops were beautiful and versatile with the flats on wheels making transitions crisp and fast and the gorgeous drops painted by Richard Prouse. (who work I've loved since Music Man - he also has done drops for Oliver! and Broadway's Mary Poppins) Costumes were beautiful and the props well done also. The lighting design was very effective and set the mood appropriately. The band was solid as well.

I only have a few things to say about how the production could be improved - I was disappointed in how some of the actors forgot to cheat out and I only saw their backs during dialog - part of the problem is the auditorium and where I was sitting (house left) but this a pet peeve of mine. The microphones and sound system levels were a little out of wack at times, (and was quickly fixed) but again, this is more the difficulty of the space then a problem with the production itself. (plus a quick tour of the sound booth at intermission made it apparent why this was a problem) Lastly, some of the really high notes for the guys were a little off - not sure if they were having a rough night, vocal fatigue or what - again it was a minor and rarely effected my enjoyment of the show.

Not only was it one of the most polished productions I've seen from local community theater - but it was highly entertaining and had a great pace. I didn't want the show to end. My complements to the producers, directors, production staff, backstage crew and of course all the talented actors!

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kat said...

I'm so happy to hear Herman's show is successful and I hope he has many more exciting productions to come.

patkeepsie said...

I saw "Millie" the second day of the run and while some of my impressions were similar ( they hard to reach notes, and the sound issues) I blogged a slightly different opine:

"...My friend said the play seemed to lack "cohesiveness". I called it " songs in search of a plot". The music was okay, the second act being far better and moved faster than the first.

The sound, choppy. One minute the actors sounded great and then they faded to a near stage whisper.

The plot, what there was of it, was single young women at a boarding house which is also a source for the White Slave trade in Asia. A Chinese laundry serves as the processing point, where two brothers, slaves themselves, work there to get their Mom out of China by assisting Mrs. Meers in her dasterdly deeds.

That is it.

From this...a musical?

"Sweet Charity" had a better plot.

I thought the woman who played Dorothy Parker in the party scene was miscast; too willowy, too tall and too blonde to play a short half Jewish woman writer and raconteur (I am a huge Parker fan). Would Dorothy Parker be at a party at all?

The actress who played Millie, Jenn Kelly (Equity waiver) WAS Dorothy Parker to me. She did sing very well, but not as good as Dorothy, Danielle Borkowsky.

There are two actresses playing evil white slave trader and failed actress Mrs Meers. The one we saw, Sue Gies (or Geis depending on the website or the program one saw) muddled her words so badly in the first act it was hard for anyone in the audience to understand her in EITHER Chinese or Engrish! I've heard more enunciation in a NYC subway announcement.

Gies/Geis did enunciate far better in the second act. Maybe someone took the potsticker out of her mouth at intermission.

The two Chinese workers, Ching Ho (Lee Albright, who is Korean) and Bun Foo (Joe Augustine, who is not) were a hit singing Al Jolson's "Mammy" in Chinese! Loved that idea of the on screen subtitles.

The dancing was superb, especially the "typing pool" number, thanks to choreographer Andy Paluselli. Sets and lighting from Richard Prouse reflect the "Roaring 20's" theme of the play, and were wonderful.

I realize it's their first production and for what I saw, it a great and good attempt. We both enjoyed the effort.

However, the hope is they figure things out by the time Golden Stone produces "Seussical", which is a great play and has a fairly solid plot...if you count the works of Dr Seuss a "plot" ;)

Erica said...

There are a lot of musicals that lack a solid plot - Rent is the best example. Millie has it's faults but that lies with the musical itself not this production.

The sound system in the "theater" (we should be calling this space an auditorium, it is not really well designed for musical theater) was really rough, and there were no monitor speakers in the booth - imagine trying to adjust the mixer without being able to actually hear things well - that would account for the wacky sound issues experienced. Again, this is more an issue with the performance space then the production.

Mrs Meers (Sue) was perfectly understandable the time I saw the show, so it goes to show how widely live theater can vary from night to night. It's one of the joys of live musical theater - you can see the show several times and have a different experience each time.

I'm not certain what you mean by " hope they figure things out by Suessical" - The production was solid if you compare it to any other community theater group in this area. The biggest issue they have to overcome is the technical difficulties with the sound system.

Gale said...

The amount of plot is about the same as in any other musical from the same time period… think Anything Goes, Music Man, Mame… light and fluffy. Sinister characters are either humorous, minor, or non-existent. However, I enjoyed the show tremendously – the skill and enthusiasm of the actors, combined with the great costuming, was enough to carry the show. The cute numbers like the tap-typing and the ‘mammy’ song were icing on the cake.

Excellent job!

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