Thursday, 11 May 2017

REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Originally a film made famous by Julie Andrews, Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a small-town Kansas girl who moves to the city to find a rich man to marry.

From the outset it’s hard to fathom who thought this show needed to be retold for a modern audience. With no likeable characters to cling on to, strong narrative to drive the plot and no memorable numbers, this is a musical that really could have stayed in the history books. In the 20s Millie may have been aspirational and modern, today we’d have called her a gold-digger.

The show starts brightly enough with “Not For The Life Of Me” building nicely and some fizzing choreography, but its light soon fades. What follows is nearly three hours (including interval) of woeful characterisation and non-existent storyline.

Jenny Fitzpatrick is a rare bright spark as Muzzy Van Hossmere with her voice in “Only In New York” standing out from the rest in act one. Sam Barrett was a charming Jimmy Smith who moved effortlessly throughout and sounded strong on “I Turned The Corner”. The other characters were all either too shallow and two dimensional or really irritating. 

Joanne Clifton as lead Millie Dillmount showed off some fancy footwork that made her popular on Strictly but didn’t have the voice to command a leading role and many of her numbers were overpowered by the live band. 

The direction was flat and formulaic, with a particular low point being Mr Trevor Graydon’s drunk scene in act two. This extended into a farce lasting almost ten minutes; there are only so many times a man falling over can be funny. The staged corpsing of Clifton and Barrett was particularly disappointing and telling
for a show low on content that it had to rely on cheap laughs to try and inject some humour into proceedings. It is a device used sparingly in pantomime, but you don’t expect to see it in musical theatre and be done so poorly. Other cheap laughs included a man in a dress. Yes, even in 2017 that ‘gag’ is still used.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is a dire evening out and this felt like a tired and lazy production. By the end it was hard to know who this show was for and who thought it was vital the story be retold. Perhaps it had more impact in the 60s but it certainly packed no punch tonight. This is a show that really is best left for low-budget am-dram companies to wheel out in an emergency.

Review by Andy Edmeads

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