The recent trend in Broadway musicals is dark, operatic or seriously soul-searching. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is none of these, and it provides a breath of fresh air when we need to laugh instead of cry and tap our toes instead of gnash our teeth. StageDoor Theatre’s upcoming production of this 1920s jazz pastiche is packed with plenty of catchy melodies, quirky characters and kick-up-your-heels good times.
Millie (played by Jenna Haimes) is an innocent girl from small-town Kansas. She heads to New York with a dream of becoming “thoroughly modern” and marrying for money instead of love. Millie is instantly attracted to a charming but poor paper clip salesman named Jimmy (Carl White) but goes to work for the pompous Mr. Trevor Graydon (Beau Madison), planning to marry him for his money and status.
The other half of the story surrounds Millie’s friendships at a hotel for aspiring actresses. Run by the mysterious proprietress Mrs. Meers (Megan Nicholson), the hotel is a front for a kidnapping scheme whose potential victims are orphan actresses being sold into the Chinese slave trade. Miss Dorothy Brown (Lizzie Van Horne), Millie’s best friend, is the prime kidnappee.
Millie also meets a bluesy cabaret singer named Muzzy Van Hossmere (Chelsea Smith). Muzzy, who has just the type of societal marriage that Millie had in mind, takes the young singer under her wing, hoping to protect her from the hard knocks of the New York underworld.
StageDoor Theatre selected “Millie” to meet the singing, acting and dancing requirements that it maintains in all high school shows.
“You can find singing and acting in many different shows, but it’s tough to find shows that have great dancing as well,” says Nelson Conway, the show’s director. “Our choreography is by Belinda Parker, and it’s phenomenal. The entire cast has been working amazingly hard on their dancing.”
One actress who has been working exceptionally hard is Jenna Haimes, who plays the wide-eyed Millie.
“Jenna is truly a triple threat. She is a serious dancer and is also doing wonderful character and vocal work,” says Conway.
Haimes and the rest of the cast are accompanied by a live four-piece musical ensemble. The cast’s fancy footwork and flapper finery are complemented by the art deco sets and backdrops created by Dean Arniotes and Pam Willcox.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our prop mast extraordinaire, Al Van Horne,” says Conway. “Al helped us track down hundreds of period props, including a slew of old-fashioned typewriters.”
The typewriters are key to the lively dance number “The Speed Test,” in which the stiletto taps of dance shoes create the clacking sounds of the typewriter keys in the steno pool.
Which brings us back to the true star of the show — the dancing. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is thoroughly packed with the type of flashy, high-energy numbers that take audiences back to the Golden Age of Broadway.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Presented by StageDoor Theatre, 25797 Conifer Road (in the Aspen Park Village shopping center).
May 1 through May 17; Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m.,
Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.; May 17 matinee is at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $16 adult; $13 student; $13 senior (60-plus). Tickets may be reserved at www.stagedoortheatre.org or call 303-886-2819 for more details.