Thoroughly Modern Millie
Thoroughly serviceable musical with catchy tunes and unfortunate subplot
Adapted from the successful 1960s film, Thoroughly Modern Millie goes back to 1920s New York – the time of flappers, jazz and the speakeasy – to tell a simple tale of love and ambition. The moral – that marrying for love is better than for money – is undermined by the fairy-tale ending but carried by the energy of the cast and a charming central performance from Joanne Clifton as Millie.
The musical numbers, which pastiche 1920s' hot jazz with a smooth orchestration, drive the production with the ensemble making the most of the Charleston and Tango inspired choreography: Millie and Jimmy (Sam Barrett) are a perfect mixture of attempted cynicism and idealism, with Katherine Glover's Miss Dorothy offering solid support as a naive, yet clearly wealthy, plot device. Unfortunately, the subplot of white slavery – with Eastender's star Michelle Collins as the villainous Mrs Meers – is both under-developed and tarnished by stereotypes: even if Collins' character is supposed to be pretending to be Chinese, the 'amusing' accent is uncomfortable, a problem made worse by Collins' poor performance.
But some great comedy interludes, especially from Graham MacDuff as the stuffy potential love interest, and Clifton's high-octane performance keep the energy high and the action engaging. The second act does fall victim to the common problem of swinging between moods and not allowing the drama to develop over more than a scene (Millie and Jimmy are off and on again three times in the space of half an hour), but the reprises of the title song – sneaked in several numbers – and the good humour of the sentiments hides the weaknesses. Veering at times into an almost pantomime-like comedy – and ending, just like a pantomime, in a wedding – Thoroughly Modern Millie is less a contemporary musical than a traditional and cheerful throwback.
Reviewed at King's Theatre, Glasgow. Run ended, touring throughout the UK until Jul 2017.