Catching a performance of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is quite possibly the most fun thing you can do with your clothes on in Park Slope this month.
From start to finish, this musical take on a newly arrived, social-climbing young lady, Millie, obsessed with one thing — marrying a monied man — does not disappoint.
The production comes from the line of theater craft that the show should be as big as possible. There’s a big gin-soaked cast of leggy ladies and streetwise fellas dancing in large ensemble numbers in 1920s-era New York. This is campy with a capital C. Don’t ask this show to hold back because you’re going to get walloped.
Alison Luff does a commendable job as Millie Dillmount, the transplanted Kansas working gal who prefers to think of herself as broke rather than poor.
“Poor sounds permanent,” she says. “Broke can be fixed.”
She settles into a Manhattan hotel for women run by the nefarious Mrs. Meers (Justine Campbell–Elliott), a washed-up stage actress who drugs and sells young women into “white slavery” with the aid of her Chinese laundry men.
While her fellow flappers from the hotel unexpectedly check out, Millie adapts to the city quickly. After all, she says with moxie, “A lot can happen in seven days. Just read the Bible.”
You don’t have to be familiar with the late 1960s film version or the more-recent Broadway adaptation to know where the endearing archetypal story is heading.
Employed as a stenographer, she uses her feminine wiles to win over her boss (Andy Planck) — and his bank account. Those steamy overtures go nowhere, but during her downtime, Millie’s begins falling for fun lovin’ poor boy Jimmy Smith, raffishly played by David Rosetti. (On paper, plenty of people would choose Graydon over Smith. But Rosetti’s acting created a character of seductive charm and joy that he won me over.)
Soon, the lovely Millie is all crossed up as she tries to fight off the onset of thoroughly un-modern romantic love and to keep her eye on the prize. All appears lost when it appears that both Trevor and Jimmy have gone weak in their knees for her best friend Dorothy Brown (Amy Grass). Oh no!
But it’s actually Mrs. Meers who covets Dorothy — most of all for the skin trade — and is poised to ship her to the Orient, a ploy that’s uncovered and foiled by Millie, Trevor, Jimmy, Ching Ho, Muzzy van Hossmere (a cabaret star who serves as Millie’s quasi-fairy godmother), and even one of the laundrymen who’s in love with Dorothy, too.
Mix in some snappy songs and you’ve got a riveting recipe for a love story laced with the right amount of shenanigans from an impressive cast.
If there’s one fault with the show, it was the actors’ lack of control over their volume. In one of the first songs, Luff was barely audible in the rear of the audience (though she never had this problem again). Also during one of the rowdier ditties of the first act, the singing ensemble projected too much noise. Their lyrics were indecipherable.
Some of the secondary characters provided standout performances. Debra Thais Evans, as Muzzy, has a sensational voice and could be starring under bigger and brighter lights. Roy Flores, playing Ching Ho, and Jay Paranada, as his brother Bun Foo, deserve to take an extra bow, too.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” runs through Feb. 22 at the Gallery Players [199 14th St., between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 832-0617]. Tickets are $18. Visit galleryplayers.com.