As soon as the orchestra started I knew I was in for a treat. Trevelyan College Musical Society has pulled out all the stops this year, and the result is a cracker of an evening out.
Though that midway point of term may be making end of term deadlines seem a whole lot closer, the sheer feel-good quality of this musical is bound to put a smile on your face and get those feet a-tapping. Just like a typewriter.
Thoroughly Modern Millie follows the fortunes of Millie Dillmount, played by an astonishingly talented Sorrel Brown, as she leaves behind Kansas and tries to make it big in New York. Her definition of making it big? Not stage stardom, at which the other girls at Hotel Priscilla aim, but marrying her boss.
Yes, Millie is indeed thoroughly modern in her views on romance, but she can’t quite escape Cupid’s arrow. The chemistry sizzled between her and Jimmy Smith, played by the charming Adam Richardson, the whole way through, adding an extra bounce to the quick fire dialogue that kept the audience on their toes. Scene changes were generally smooth, and the set was cleverly arranged so that a wide variety of places was created simply by changing the signs on the wall and bringing on furniture.
Lighting was used well, especially the spotlights to subtly switch attention to different parts of the office at Millie’s job interview. Unfortunately, Emily Winter, playing the glamorous yet motherly Muzzy Van Hossmere, had some problems with her microphone, yet her talent still shone through, even if more quietly than expected.
The orchestra was a powerful presence throughout with a full range of instruments blending beautifully to create that Broadway sound. Special mention has to be made of Sam Clark, who managed the impressive feat of being both a chorus member and trumpeter in the band. Yet I did feel that the vigour and enthusiasm of the orchestra occasionally drowned out the chorus, and even Richardson, especially on the higher pitched fast sections of his songs. However, he held his own on the longer notes, pouring emotion into them by the bucketful.
Brown was equally adept at conveying emotion, from her preliminary confidence to that painful recognition of love; she kept the audience with her the whole way, to the extent that I felt physically sick at the pre-interval twist. Maddy Shaw-Roberts, playing the sweet and innocent Miss Dorothy, was also a hit with the audience. Her stunning soprano singing combined with Will Lavelle’s rich tones created a beautiful (and hilarious, that ‘Ah!’ definitely produced the loudest laugh of the night) duet, but not quite as beautiful (SPOILERS) as her eventual pairing with Ching Ho.
This stage rivalry between Ching and Trevor for Dorothy’s hand extends into a rivalry for the award of funniest character, with the decision still pending!
Meanwhile: Ching Ho, played by Nick Denton. What to say? Brother of Bun Foo (Adam Thompson.) Both appearing when you least expect them to, including during the interval. Both jaw-achingly funny. Their accents, their facial expressions, their body movements. Everything was tuned to comedic perfection.
The development of their relationship with the evil Mrs Meers was brilliant too, all the way from bland complicity to open defiance. However, the development of Mrs Meers as a character was equally spectacular (especially in the accent department), though not quite so linear. From the start Annie Moberly switches between an intentionally questionable, stereotypical Chinese accent and the sinister tones of a New York gangster with convincing ease, making her villainy deliciously clear to the audience.
The chorus was also strong, especially at background chitchat in office and party scenes and their mug shots, where they were entertaining without drawing attention away from the leads. However, I felt they could have done with more time to practice the big dance numbers together, as smoother arm flicks and leg kicks in time with each other (and fewer nervous expressions) would have been lovely icing to have on such a great cake.
Nevertheless, whole cast singing and dancing scenes are always impressive, and Director Matt Todd treated us to a generous sprinkling of them throughout the musical. In fact, the entire performance was a treat of the most wonderful kind. I would willingly go back and see it every night for the rest of its run. That feeling of spine-tingling, hair-raising, goose-bump-producing delight is impossible to fake, and I felt it again and again throughout the evening.
Indeed, Miss Dorothy sums up the whole spirit of the musical at the end with “isn’t it delectable?”. And the answer to that question is most certainly affirmative.
Not only is the performance packed full of vivacious wit, fantastic talent, and some beautiful harmonies, but the ending is cuter than a basket of puppies. And, like Marvel films, there’s even a post-credits scene by the ninja-like stage crew. So stick around after the performance to find out what I mean, but vacate your chair quickly and head for the safety of the sides of the room!
Photograph: Venus Loi