By Sue Suchyta
The Tony Award-winning musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” hits a high note at the Players Guild of Dearborn and closes out the Guild’s regular season with catchy songs, toe-tapping numbers, and feel-good fun.
From the strong leads to colorful character parts and excellent ensemble, the show takes on a life of its own from the moment the cast fills the stage to the final bow.
Whether they’re dancing cheek to cheek in a speakeasy or tapping while they type, the dance numbers make the hard work look easy, and bring energy and the wow factor to the street, office and party scenes.
Director Kim Donovan brings her trademark attention to detail and clever touches to the show in a way that blends polished production values seamlessly with the unexpected comic vignettes that leave audiences laughing with delight.
Choreographer Jennifer McPherson brought out the best in a chorus with a wide range of dancing ability, and made it look sharp and clever. The typewriter tap scene is funny, and the speakeasy dancing captures the devil-may-care attitude of the bathtub gin era.
Maura Donovan brings her effervescent energy to the role of Millie and makes it her own. As an actress who literally grew up on the Guild stage in both the youth theater and main stage productions, she will impress the toughest critics with her spot-on delivery, comic timing and impressive singing voice. As a graduating high school senior, the part provides the perfect segue as she takes on the role of college coed next fall.
Denise Kowalewski-Tucker is delightfully droll as the sinister Mrs. Meers, the hotel manager who funnels her hotel’s orphans into a white slave trade ring. She garners much well deserved laughter, and has some very funny scenes with her half-hearted henchmen, Alan Ellias as Bun Foo and Tim Carney as Ching Ho.
Sydnee Dombrowski makes the most of her role as Miss Flannery, the no-nonsense middle manager who tries to hide her soft side.
Jeff Flannery is funny as the no-nonsense boss who is amusingly more interested in Millie’s efficient business acumen than her physical attributes.
Angela Keller-Pelc brings a self-assured mien and easy confidence to the role of Muzzy Van Hossmere, bringing depth to a character that could all too easily become one-dimensional. She delivers a fine cabaret act while she’s at it, too.
Kenyada Davis as Jimmy Smith hits his stride in his one-on-one comic scenes with Millie. His speakeasy dancing duel with Millie is a humorous highlight.
Bree Rafferty turns on the charm in a feminine tour-de-force as Miss Dorothy.
The Players Guild always has been able to attract a talented chorus, and “Millie” is no exception. This cast is called on not only to sing and dance, but to tap; and the entire cast gets to take on multiple characters – from chorus girls, to speakeasy customers.
The entire cast is more than two dozen strong. They display distinct and even occasionally multiple personalities. They never succumb to the chorus cattle call mentality – they are actively invested in the entire show, and stay in character throughout, right down to the scene changes.
The costumes are great, reflecting the roaring ’20s. They also follow different subtle color schemes. The hair – with the help of many wigs – gives us everything from bobs to braids.
The set even features a moving elevator, and the hotel room doors fly in and out to bring back the New York skyline.
“Millie” runs for four weekends. Remaining performances include May 7 to 9, May 14 to 16, and May 21-23. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees.
The Guild is handicapped accessible, and is at 21730 Madison, south of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive.
For tickets, call (313) 561-TKTS. For more information, go to the Web site www.playersguildofdearborn.org.