'Millie' has pep, so hear her roar

The Baltimore Sun

Promising a bright ending to the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's season is a delightful frolic through the jazz age, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The Broadway show, which won six Tony awards in 2002, has its genesis in Richard Morris' 1967 film musical about irrepressible 1920s flapper Millie Dillmount. The movie starred Julie Andrews as Millie.

It was turned into a stage musical decades later after lyricist David Scanlan persuaded Morris to take on the stage adaptation.

Morris died in 1996.

After that, Scanlan enlisted collaborators Michael Mayer as director and Jeanine Tesori as composer to fashion the stage musical - all the while, retaining the film's songs by James Van Heussen and Victor Herbert.

The show opened on Broadway 35 years after the film. Among its honors was the 2002 Tony for best musical.

The plot centers on young Millie Dillmount of Kansas.

She arrives in New York and immediately is mugged. Her purse and suitcase are stolen. She meets native New Yorker Jimmy Smith, who directs her to an inexpensive hotel where strange Mrs. Meers serves as the proprietor.

Millie's plan: to find work and marry her boss.

She quickly lands a job and, after impressing boss Trevor Graydon with her shorthand and typing expertise, she works on the marriage goal.

As she makes friends at the hotel and at work, Millie embarks on a series of adventures leading her to colorful characters. Among them is Muzzy van Hossmere, a millionaire's widow who hosts great parties in her New York penthouse.

Millie forms a friendship with her roommate, " Miss Dorothy," a well-dressed orphan. Dorothy visits Millie at work and catches the eye of Millie's boss Trevor Graydon. He falls for her in a big way.

Then there is this subplot: Female tenants of the hotel who have no family that would miss them seem to disappear at an astonishing rate. Dorothy may be next in line.

The 1967 screenplay was conceived as a film spoof of 1920s musical comedies. It was widely considered a delightful parody of itself, said Beth Terranova, the director of this Millie production.

"While it would be easy to view Thoroughly Modern Millie' as a musical with - as one reviewer put it 'not much on its mind' - I see more to it," she said. " To me Millie Dillmount is a modern, tough and independent pioneer woman with the moxie to go after her dream, the courage to help a friend in danger and the smarts to work out when a modern notion should take a back seat to true emotion."

In addition to the title tune, the 20-song score includes "Only in New York," "I Turned the Corner," "Gimme, Gimme," "Forget about the Boy" and the Gilbert and Sullivan-type patter song "The Speed Test."

Summer Garden's production will feature a cast headed by Hana Thornhill, who played Lola in Second Star's Damn Yankees two years ago. Last year, she was Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the same Bowie theater.

Song and dance man Ronnie Schronce will play Jimmy Smith. Teaming with Thornhill earlier, Schronce starred as Finch in How to Succeed and portrayed Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar when staged by Top Hat Productions in 2005.

Among others in the case are Jamie Miller as Lucille (and understudy for Millie), Sara Patsy as Dorothy, Steve Denninger as Trevor Graydon, Mindy Brandon as Mrs. Meers, and Kay Marie Knapp as Muzzy.

The show runs weekends, Thursday through Sunday, through Sept. 1.

Tickets are $15 and $12 for students and seniors and groups of 20. For reservations call 410-268-9212 or visit www.summergarden.com.

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