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Theatre Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭½


Review by Sharman Prince


Based on the 1967 Julie Andrews film of the same name, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" tells the story of Kansas girl "Millie Dillmount" (Joanna Clifton) who moves to New York in the 1920s in order to become a "modern woman" and marry for money rather than love. Along the way she  falls for the penniless "Jimmy Smith" (Sam Barrett) and must foil the dastardly scheme of "Mrs Meers" (Michelle Collins), whose hotel for young girls is a front for her enterprising business of human trafficking.

The nature of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" demands that the production be one that zips along with punch and is in possession of zap and pizzazz but, sadly, the show, in the first act at least, lacks something of this. For this reviewer, it seems that the production fails to build momentum; it's as if director Racky Plews is unable to move the production only rarely out of first gear and this has the effect of imbuing the act with an unfortunate sense of lethargy, despite the energetic cast. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the second act which kicks into the higher gears more assuredly and which begins to show evidence of the zip and zap that is mostly missing before the interval. 

The design elements are perfectly adequate for the production and the choreography (also by Racky Plews) is enjoyable whilst the small band manage to produce a well rounded sound, though it did overpower the vocals at times. It's also a shame that the orchestrations weren't rewritten to suit the production better (the use of synthesised strings is never a good idea).

The cast are the exception here, performing with an energy and verve that the production, in general, lacks. There is not a real weak link among them and one gets the sense that this cast is deserving of a superior production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in which to truly utlilise their given talents. Still, there are performances which, overcoming the limits of the production, excel: Jenny Fitzpatrick is a vivacious "Muzzy Van Hossmere" and possesses a dynamic voice while the "Mrs Meers" of Michelle Collins is suitably villainous and scheming. Damian Buhagiar and Andy Yau, "Ching ho" and "Bun Foo" respectively, bring humour and charm to roles which are nothing more than racial stereotypes while Katherine Glover, complete with a clear soprano voice, is endearing as "Miss Dorothy Brown". Sam Barrett cuts a dashing figure as "Jimmy Smith" and is blessed with a lovely vocal quality and his presence and chemistry with his leading lady is readily in evidence. As the titular character, Joanna Clifton proves herself as a more than capable musical comedy performer; she has a quality voice and her dancing ability is beyond question (as one would hope in the most recent winner of "Strictly Come Dancing") and she leads the company confidently. But special mention must be made of Graham MacDuff who plays "Millie"'s initial target, "Trevor Graydon"; his comedic talents are sublime and his voice and characterisation are of equal standard coming into their own throughout the second act where he all but upstages the entire company. Indeed the whole company thoroughly make more than the most available to them.

 "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is still an enjoyable production, but one in which the whole is not necessarily the sum of its parts. Though the production is wanting in certain aspects it is ultimately saved by a cast who rise head and shoulders above what is required of them and they are, perhaps, worth the entry fee alone. 

Thoroughly Modern Millie is at the King's Theatre Glasgow until Saturday 11th February. For tickets and information visit ATG Tickets.

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