by Shirley Lorraine
Millie Musical a whiz-bang in Simi
For pure fun and entertainment presented with pep by top-notch performers, the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” now playing through October 21 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center is highly recommended.
Studio C Performing Arts out of Westlake Village has put together an outstanding cast for the lively, toe-tapping 1920’s musical. Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan penned the book for the staging, adapting the original story and screenplay by Richard Morris. The staging includes a few minor variations on the 1967 film’s storyline as well as added songs and musical numbers.
Millie Dillmount (Colette Peters) arrives in New York City with hopes of finding a job and marrying her boss. The naïve girl from Kansas quickly finds the City less hospitable than she had figured. A chance meeting with Jimmy Smith (Nick Tubbs) directs her to the Priscilla Hotel run by Mrs. Meers (Stephanie Lesh-Farrell) which caters to hopeful actors usually down on their luck. Along the way Millie decides to become “a modern”, updating her look and finding a new best friend in Miss Dorothy Brown (Bryce Hamilton).
With her perky attitude and exceptional stenographer skills, Millie lands a job in an insurance agency. Her boss, Trevor Graydon (Brent Ramirez), a handsome, charismatic up and comer, meets her approval as a potential husband.
Meanwhile, back at the Hotel, orphaned girls are disappearing. Mrs. Meers, along with her henchmen, Ching Ho and Bun Foo, heads up a scheme to sell the hapless girls into slavery. Ho and Foo converse convincingly in their own language with English subtitles provided.
Jimmy introduces Millie to chanteuse and million-heiress Muzzie Van Hossmere (Monica Quinn). Jimmy and the gang ultimately squash the slavery ring, surprises are revealed, and true love is found.
There is not a weak member in this cast. The leading players all possess exceptional voices, beautifully displayed. Ramirez and Quinn particularly give standout performances. A memorable song paying homage to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Modern Major General carries a quickening tempo and impressive articulation. Everyone wears a headset mic which, combined with bundles of vocal power, reaches easily beyond the 12-piece orchestra led by Mazie Rudolph.
Lesh-Farrell plays it up as the villain and Ginny Grady is a hoot as Miss Flannery, the office manager. Laughs are generous throughout as the entire cast camps it up just enough without going overboard.
Director Jeffrey Scott Parsons keeps the action swift and the characters lively. Simple yet creative scene changes often happen as singing and dancing is taking place downstage. There is no down time waiting for scene changes. Period costuming is spot on and charming throughout.
Crisp, fun choreography by Keenon Hooks is tight and well executed, especially given the number of actors on the stage at once. One highlight is a scene at the insurance company involving steno desks on rollers. Both the male and female ensemble dancers make the choreography shine even more.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is just plain fun and extremely well done.
Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave, Simi Valley. www.sime-arts.org or 805-583-7900. Tickets are $25, seniors and students $22 and kids 12 and under are $18. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sunday through Oct. 21.