Thoroughly Modern Millie – Review – Leeds Grand
By Sarah Churcher, April 2017
The story may be set in the 1920s, but the show is thoroughly modern and thoroughly outstanding.
This production of Thoroughly Modern Millie is a glorious display of unbounded talent ripping through a simple story and elevating it to a sensation. The whole cast are dazzling and the dance routines exceptional. Perfectly timed and performed with spirit and vivacity, the numbers came thick and fast and capture the energy and excitement of the period, when times were changing and the change was embraced.
The story leads us through Millie’s arrival in New York and her search for a husband/job by “interviewing” potential bosses/fiancés. As the story progresses we witness the evil that New York has to offer along with Millie’s tumultuous relationship with Jimmy Smith, which turns from fury to fun and then to love. The changes is scenes are accompanied by a multitude of costume changes which reflect the era and the rising hemlines. Each costume is exquisite. I can’t tell you the number of items I could happily walk away with and hang in my wardrobe.
“Effortless and sublime”
Joanne Clifton as Millie is perfection. Every aspect of her performance is A+. Her vocals are strong and clear but she truly shines when she dances. Effortless and sublime, she moves with honesty and pure joy. Mention also to the other leading parts; Lucas Rush as Mrs Meers very nearly steals the show. Rush is outstanding and meticulous in his portrayal of the cruel and heartless landlady – his drop in tone as he sweeps easily from his Mrs Meers facade to his true self (the evil “white slavery trafficker”) is hilarious. He nails it and deserves every last laugh he receives, which are plentiful.
But he isn’t the only one with impeccable comic timing, as we see during Mr Graydon’s (Graham Macduff) drunken antics. Fuelled by heartbreak, the scene descends into chaos as Millie and Jimmy try to help Mr Graydon crack the mystery of the disappearing young ladies. Alcohol gets the better of him and Macduff gives a fantastic display of his obvious aptitude for physical comedy. The audience love it, the cast love it, and at one point the whole house, Clifton and all, are stifling giggles as he clings to the props and slides down the art deco set.
“It brings the house down”
Sam Barrett, who plays Jimmy, does a sterling job holding it together and an equally great job as the fun, witty, young suitor who falls for Mille Dillmount. Sam’s elegant dancing and casual but cheeky persona is the perfect antidote to Millie’ firecracker personality.
Full throttle from curtain up to finale, the energy throughout is exceptional. Clifton even gives us a snippet of her unbelievable signature jive kicks as the curtain drops (don’t think I didn’t notice that Graham Macduff kept up kick for kick!).
This production deserves five stars (plus a bit more just for Rush and Clifton). It brings the house down – and my only criticism is that they do not take another curtain call to enjoy the rapturous applause they so richly deserve.
images: Darren Bell