Quite how the Watermill fits 12 - TWELVE - cast members on this teeny stage is a mystery, especially when they all dance, sing, play instruments and generally behave as if they‘re at the Coliseum at the very least. Tight choreography plays its part, as does (another) sensational Watermill set. Some of the cast do spend more time than usual under the slips, but the quality of the music would rival many a professional orchestra. And where else would be able to watch a pianist having as much fun as this one does?
The casting is inspired, and you just know that many of them will go on to greater things. Eleanor Brown‘s winsome Millie is superb, and her burgeoning relationship with Jimmy (played with great charm by Lee Honey-Jones) is a delight. Paul Matania, as Millie‘s boss and potential husband Trevor, looks disconcertingly like Buzz Lightyear, and a constant expectation of a rousing ’To infinity and beyond‘ is difficult to avoid; but when he meets Helen Powers‘ ditzy Miss Dorothy, he plays the lovestruck romantic to hilarious perfection.
The villain of the piece is the wicked Mrs Mears, who sells poor orphan girls into white slavery (as you do). Amy Booth-Steel riotously plays her somewhere between Cruella Deville and a wicked stepmother; the temptation to hiss when she‘s at her most nefarious is almost overwhelming, but pantomime this is not, so just sit back and enjoy a very good performance.
This is perfect summer fayre from the Watermill, and I can think of no better place to spend an evening.
PatH (Unverified), 20/08/12
A thoroughly marvellous time is in store for anyone with tickets to see Oxford Operatic Society’s Thoroughly Modern Millie at the New Theatre. It is impossible not to have a grin on your face while watching this fast-paced, very silly, big-hearted show.
Based on the Julie Andrews film (though not a direct stage adaptation – the story is a little different and only the title song remains from the original), Thoroughly Modern Millie follows Millie (played by the fantastic Hannah Veale) as she goes from wide-eyed Kansas girl to 1920s New York flapper, on the search for a rich husband but finding true ‘green glass’ love where she least expects it. This against a backdrop of charlstoning, the kidnap of orphan girls into white slavery, and fake Chinese hoteliers.
The musical numbers are big and incredibly catchy (I suspect I am going to be singing the title song to myself for the rest of the week at least) and this production certainly has the singers to pull them off. Hannah Veale really is impressive in the lead role, but is matched by Alex Williams as the apparently penniless love interest Jimmy, a very funny Edward Blagrove as the rich boss she has her eye on, Catharine Blagrove as her new best friend Miss Dorothy, and Chilina Madon as the very un-PC Mrs Meers, a hotelier pretending to be Chinese to keep her identity secret, selling her residents into white slavery. The fact that this sounds very weird and offensive in writing but does not come across that way in the show is testament to the exuberance and light touch of the production.
Even the sections that don’t feel quite so professional are enjoyable. There is a scene in which society hostess and international star Muzzy Van Hossmere (another incredible-voiced member of the cast, Susanne Sheehy) performs a song backed by the male chorus. Their dancing is not brilliant, it has to be said, but it is so endearing that a lot of the enjoyment would be lost if they were more slick. If I’m being picky, some of the scene changes in the second half could have been smoother, and I would request that the excitable hotel residents tone down the occasional high-pitched shrieks a little bit, just for the sake of the audience’s ears, but these are minor quibbles.
Thoroughly good fun, Thoroughly Modern Mille comes thoroughly recommended. However, it could give you the urge to tap dance on the way home, which may not be in everyone’s best interests.
Debbie Sims (DI Reviewer), 23/05/12
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