Millie Goes Thoroughly Modern in New York City

thoroughly-modern-millie-mainstage-page-newSeles VanHuss shines in 1920s musical at Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage

Reviewed by Tom Jones
November 27, 2016

Millie Dillmount, delightfully played by Seles VanHuss, is the traditional mid-western young woman who arrives in New York City without fear, and with aspirations of a great change in her life. Some girls travel to the Big Apple to make it big in show business. Millie’s plans are much more defined. She wants to marry a rich man.

Millie has barely arrived in Manhattan when she is mugged. Her purse, her suitcase, and one shoe are missing. But not her determination. Performers on stage at BDT Stage are equally determined – making every effort to provide theatregoers with a good time. Their dancing is especially appealing. Choreographer Matthew D. Peters has showcased his dancers’ talents with several first-rate musical delights. He dazzled audiences with his work in “Footloose” earlier this year, and has even topped those efforts.

© Glenn Ross |
© Glenn Ross |

Millie’s quest to find a millionaire husband takes a few detours. She does have an interview with Trevor Graydon, a wealthy businessman with a lecherous eye. Her “Speed Test” interview is one of the greatest scenes in the history of Broadway musicals. The BDT Stage version of this scene is wonderful. The stage is awhirl with 1920 stenographers, typists, and office staff zooming around the stage on their chairs, typing and taping their hearts out. Millie passes the interview with flying colors and is smitten by her new boss, delightfully played by Scott Severtson.

Millie finds found lodging in New York City’s Priscila Hotel, managed by Mrs. Meers, a maybe-Asian woman. Meers is up to no good. She is a leader in the white slave trade, dispatching American women to their fate overseas. She runs the Priscilla Hotel for young women, new to the city, providing them lodging at reasonable rates. They have no idea that Mrs. Meers will come into their rooms, drug them, and whisk them off to the Orient concealed in laundry baskets. She is especially happy to rent rooms to young women with no families, particularly orphans, as no one will come around snooping.

© Glenn Ross |
© Glenn Ross |

Meers employs two Chinese brothers with the idea that they can earn money to bring their mother to America. Alejandro Roldan and Matthew D. Peters are the two brothers, Ching Ho and Bun Foo. Their Chinese conversations are translated into English subtitles above the stage. They are super fun, especially Ching Ho who has fallen for one of the girls in the hotel. He must do everything in his non-English-speaking power to save her from the treacherous Mrs. Meers, played by Joanie Brosseau – a BNDT Stage favorite.

Tossed into the wacky plot is Jimmy Smith, played by Burke Walton, in love with Millie, and doing what he can to keep her affections away from Trevor Graydon, her boss. When Millie’s friend Dorothy Brown, drops in to see Millie at the office, Graydon sees her, and fireworks go off in his heart. Never has “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” sounded better or more crazed than belted by a lovesick businessman boss, played by Scott Severtson. The object of his sudden affection is the same girl that the loony Ching Ho craves. Burke Walton plays Jimmy, with Rebekah Ortiz as Millie’s friend, Dorothy Brown. Tracy Warren is in fine form as Miss Flannery, the office manager, and Alicia K. Meyers is the over-the-top socialite, Muzzy, who appears to be everyone’s friend, and who appears to know everybody!

© Glenn Ross |
© Glenn Ross |

This is a continually amusing tale, with the upper class rubbing shoulders with the middle class. The middle class rubbing shoulders with the not-articulate-in-English Chinese laborers. The Chinese laborers forced by Mrs. Meer to pack young women in laundry baskets to sell in the white slave trade. And Millie — wanting only to rise above the hassle to find a millionaire to marry.

Through it all, the amazing dancers keep the audience wowed by their tapping and typing skills. The 1920 flappers have never been more appealing. The costumes are excellent, and the dancers sing and dance with rare abandon, appearing to have no notion that the world is turning upside down all around them.

The musical is based on a 1967 movie starring Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews. It appeared as a Broadway musical in 2002 and won numerous awards, including Tony Awards for Best Musical, and Sutton Foster being honored as Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical.

Scott Beyette has directed the local production. The Boulder audience appeared initially hesitant to warm up to the craziness provided. There was not, however, an unhappy face to be found in the audience when Millie finds her match!

“Thoroughly Modern Millie”
To February 25, 2017
BDT Stage – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
5501 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
For Information: Telephone: 303/449-6000