The Thoroughly Modern Millie musical is based on the 1967 Oscar-winning film of the same name – which was itself derived from the 1956 British stage show, Chrysanthemum.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Grand Opera House, York
Till Sat Mar 4 @ 7.30pm, with Sat matinee 2.30pm
£17.50 – £53
The current touring show sees Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing pro winner, 2016) step into Julie Andrews’ shoes as Millie Dillmount, the small town girl who moves to Manhattan in the 1920s to find a rich man – and marry him.
As the story develops, Millie is mugged and left penniless, and is directed towards the Hotel Priscilla – where she can stay with a week’s credit until she finds a job to pay her way.
All is definitely not what is seems. The Hotel’s proprietor, Mrs Meers, is involved with the white slave trade – trapping and shipping orphaned girls off on a slow boat to China.
But this is a Broadway musical. So there are song and dance numbers, and plenty of glamorous costumes displayed against the Art Deco styled scenery. There are love stories which intertwine the characters, and some genuinely amusing sections.
Unfortunately there are some scenes which are bordering on those from a pantomime – notably the hotel scenes featuring Mrs Meers and her two Chinese henchmen. It would have come as no surprise if one of them had starting hurling custard pies at the others.
But there are some clever touches, in particular the use of sub-titling during some of the exchanges – and a Chinese rendition of Mammy (made famous by Al Jolson).
At the start of this production’s run Mrs Meers was played by ex-EastEnder Michelle Collins, but the shows in York feature Lucas Rush in the role.
Obviously the script has been adapted to acknowledge that the character is a man playing a woman. This added to the ‘Widow Twankey’ feel of his/her performance – really hamming it up, with a terrible cod Chinese accent … maybe it had to be so over-the-top to keep it from being offensive.
Voice of the night
But there are some great performances in the show. Joanne Clifton may not be the most natural of actors, but she is an amazing dancer – which you would expect – and a really good singer – which you may not.
The ‘voice of the night’ award, however, was won hands down by Jenny Fitzpatrick who played Muzzy Van Hossmere. She made her first appearance towards the end of act one and blew the roof off with her performance of ‘Only In New York’.
And, in a pleasantly surprising twist, Graham MacDuff – who played Millie’s boss, Mr Graydon – gave the most hilarious, and believable, drunk acting routine in the second half of the show.
The show was, on the whole, fun and great entertainment. The audience around me definitely enjoyed the performances.
Some good singing, beautiful costumes, excellent dancing and, not forgetting, fantastic music played live in the pit beneath the stage, more than made up for some of its other failings.