Tuesday, January 12, 2016

reviews - THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE - Desert Stages Theatre

Jesse Thomas Foster and Brandy Reed
photo: Heather Butcher
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 7th.

 "The 2002 Tony winning Best Musical Thoroughly Modern Millie is a fun-filled and infectious theatrical treat. Desert Stages Theatre's production of this musical comedy features smart direction and non-stop period perfect choreography from Cambrian James and a smashing performance from Brandy Reed as Millie. Based on the 1967 film...set in 1922 and tells the story of Millie Dillmount, the small-town girl from Kansas...She trades in her simple dress and long hair for a chic above-the-knee flapper ensemble and a bob hairdo and sets off on her "thoroughly modern" plan: to marry a man, hopefully her boss, for his wealth and not his love. However, Millie finds several obstacles on her path to nabbing a wealthy man. Her boss doesn't seem to be interested in proposing; she keeps bumping into, and might be falling for, a charming but penniless guy named Jimmy; and the owner of the hotel where she rents a room might just be running a white slavery ring...While there is a lot of plot, the story is fun and the new, upbeat musical numbers add plenty of pizzazz. Director/choreographer Cambrian James...has assembled a top-notch cast led by Brandy Reed as Millie. Reed is simply a knock-out with a firm stage presence that includes a smart and snappy delivery of her lines and a powerful voice that sends her songs soaring...Jesse Thomas Foster is adorable and confident with an agile dancer's sleek moves as Jimmy, the male romantic lead, while Heidi-Liz Johnson is full of charm and spunk as the perky, wide-eyed Miss Dorothy, the woman Millie befriends at the hotel. Stephen Serna gives another solid comical performance as Millie's boss Trevor, and Savannah Alfred is smart and sassy with a warm, strong voice as the wealthy and famous singer Muzzy Van Hossmere who factors into the plot in a fun way. As the evil Mrs. Meers who is running that white slavery ring, Sydney Davis chews every bit of scenery imaginable, with hilarious results. Drew Brantley and Jeremy Cruz are the two Chinese brothers who help Meers and they both add some charm to the silliness of their parts.  James' choreography is energetic and enthusiastic while his direction is bright and bubbly. The combination of the two results in a comically delicious journey to the prohibition era of flappers and speakeasies. ...With an enthusiast cast led by a winning turn from Brandy Reed and some splendid dancing, Desert Stages Theatre's Thoroughly Modern Millie is another hit for Cambrian James and company"  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" that Scottsdale Desert Stages opened last night on their Main Stage was a big, splashy, musical to-do on Broadway in 2002, winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actress and Best Choreography. Those are some pretty big tap shoes to fill that, with clever direction and skyscraper energy, the local production rose to, jubilantly kicking up their heels along the way....It's sweet, it's fluff, and it's fun....the atmosphere exploded with well-rehearsed, infectious energy all the way down to the cast's happy, tapping, synchronized toes...In addition to some witty staging moments, director/choreographer Cambrian James practiced his habit of coaxing joy, innovation and aptitude from his cast. The sequined costumes glittered, while flapper folly, classic hats and swishy fringes shimmied about the stage. Both Reed as Millie and her nemesis-turned-love-interest Jimmy, played by Jesse Thomas Foster, created solid, believable characters with a playful chemistry between them. Reed also sang the whole show capably,,,she let loose with the full-bodied decibels of her belting voice in "Gimme Gimme" toward the end of Act II....To bend one of the sweet sentiments in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," last night's was a green glass-half-full performance of happy story, song and dance at Scottsdale Desert Stages.
-Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

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