Venue: Jospeh Rowntree Theatre
Run: 3rd-5th November 2011
Production Team: Jennifer Hammond, William Descrettes, Alex Conway, Iseult Smith, Hoagy Davis-Digges, Claire Le Tissier, Annalise Rose Watts, Amy Walsh, Lily Marriage, Freddie Nathan.
You’ve probably never schlepped out to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, which is on the other side of town, but it is well worth the visit to enjoy Happily Ever After Society’s current production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. In fact, the producers couldn’t have chosen a better venue for this 20’s tale of young Millie Dillmount, who arrives in New York looking for a new, modern way of life, and lands herself into a frenzy of showbiz, villainy and unsuspecting romance. The sumptuous emerald velvet curtains and seats were a pleasant change from the grey concrete of Central Hall. The intimate size and 30’s architecture complimented the simple set design of a New York skyline, and effective block colour lighting of the backdrop.
Although we got off to a slightly rocky start, with a rather wobbly chorus tottering out, and fears of a predictably amateur musical loomed, the horizon quickly became pinker. One by one, each exceptional lead took to the stage and the show went from strength to strength.
With strong comic performances from Melissa Layton’s faux Chinese accent as the calculating Mrs Meers, and Luke de Belder’s love struck gazes as Trevor, the leads were well-balanced and cast. The comedy had clearly benefited from tight, and un-experimental stage direction, giving the numbers a traditional musical humour.
Tom Jones played Millie’s love interest with real ease and professionalism. His strong yet endearing performance, with some fine dancing, really lifted the developing romantic story, which, is not exactly the greatest love story ever told. But, this musical’s plot is more about the changing social climate for girls, who were shortening hemlines and hitting the town. Lottie Johnson must be credited for her excellent lead as Millie. She developed the role with courage, and sang some strong solo numbers, perfectly balancing tenacity and naivety in equal measure.
The barbershop quintet were on board as the Male Chorus, and Gabrielle Holcroft as dance captain must take credit for adding real personality to the chorus, who were entrusted with some well-judged 20’s choreography. Other notable leads were Bethan Williams and Claire Lawrence, whose vocal talents impressed. The whole cast were fully supported by a stellar orchestra lead by Alexander Conway, who was only finally revealed at the finale, having conducted the whole piece with his back to the proceedings on stage.
My only foible was the lack of attention to detail in the costume department. It was a real shame that the show didn’t get that final professional slick up, to kit the girls out with wigs, tights, shoes and period make-up. However, such detail was undoubtedly going to be compromised by budget problems, so all in all, they pulled off a real flapper of an evening. Amateur? Yes. But, was it toe-tapping-feel-good-entertainment? Thoroughly.