‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ at Goodspeed
World War I is over. Jazz is all the rage, prosperity reigns, hemlines rise. Prohibition, while the law of the land, tends to be ignored. And the nation’s big cities see the rise of the 20th century’s “new” woman, entering the work force with a mind of her own and the wits to use it.
Millie is one of those women, with her fashionably “bobbed” hair, who moves from small-town America to New York City in 1922 with the goal of becoming a stenographer and marrying her rich-guy boss.
In Goodspeed’s upcoming production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” the heroine isn’t the only new feature on the block. Sets, costumes and choreography also will shine in this new musical production of “Millie,” said Denis Jones, director and choreographer.
The romantic comedy, which opens on Friday, April 21, and runs through July 2, depicts “the very best of New York City,” Jones said. Millie (actress Taylor Quick) “comes to New York to succeed and, of course, she does. But not in the way she intended.”
Mayhem occurs when she falls for a “penniless charmer” and meets along the way a flock of flappers, a runaway heiress, a shady landlady and other corrupt characters.
Bringing “the big city to the tiny (Goodspeed) Opera House stage” has been an exciting challenge for the theater, Jones said. “The set will be elaborate, and every inch of space on the stage and wings will be used to contain the intricate puzzle of all its pieces. ... I know these are going to be performances that will spill out over the footlights and fill the house with vibrancy and joy.”
Sets and costumes reflect the Art Deco rage of the era. “Everyone and everything looks incredible,” he said, noting costumes are designed by two-time Tony Award-nominee Gregory Gale.
The musical is based on Richard Morris’ 1967 film of the same name, that was based on the British musical “Chrysanthemum,” which opened in London in 1956. In 2002, it was brought to Broadway, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Jones, who has several Broadway and regional theater productions to his credit, said he is particularly fond of “Millie” for several reasons.
“ ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ inspires me to think about my own relationship with New York City. Growing up in San Francisco ... I studied up before my arrival (in Manhattan) in so many ways, as well. ... I always knew I wanted to be a part of the great American experiment, an island that embodies the idea of the melting pot,” he writes in his notes for the show.
Jones said he believes in the musical’s optimism. “At the heart, the core of these musicals is the idea that opportunity is everywhere.”
Another reason for his love of musical comedies: “I love the idea that in the world of Broadway musicals, it is normal to break out in song to win a heart or solve a mystery. I wish real life was more like that,” he said, laughing.
Meet the cast: Following Thursday evening performances on May 18, June 1 and June 15. Free with that night’s ticket.
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