When Joanne Clifton signed up to play Millie in this highly entertaining musical, she had no idea that she would be holding the glitter ball as joint winner on Strictly. Her fantastic achievement on the best dance programme on TV did delay her rehearsal with the cast, but there was no evidence of this at last night’s show in Milton Keynes Theatre.
Joanne plays Millie Dillmount, a girl from the country who goes to New York as she doesn’t want to end up married with lots of babies. She is a girl with a plan. To marry a rich man. After all, in the 1920’s a modern girl’s marriage is like a business arrangement. Or so Millie thinks. So she cuts her hair, adopts a ‘flapper’ look and becomes thoroughly modern.
Joanne is outstanding as Millie. You expect her to be able to dance, but she also has a lovely voice and can act too. Her version of Millie is exceptional. She gives Millie a warm, affable personality which makes it hard to stop her stealing the show. And as for the dancing…well it is really out of this world. You are looking at the Queen of Strictly and she deserves that title. Even as the curtain was going down she was doing some impromptu dancing. Joanne Clifton is extremely talented and I predict her stage career is going to be a long and prosperous one.
Of course Millie finds a place to stay run by Mrs Mears. Mrs Mears is played by Michelle Collins and Michelle, although playing ‘the baddie’ brings a sense of humour to the show. I really enjoyed her fake Chinese accent (it is supposed to be like this) and the insincere way she says ‘How sad to be all alone in the world’. Mrs Mears is really a big time crook in disguise, dealing in white slavery. Her hotel is where Millie finds herself as she needs a place to stay. Millie also meets her new best friend ‘Miss Dorothy’ (Katherine Glover) there. The two become inseparable and Millie tells Dorothy of her plan to marry a rich man. Millie finds work at Sincere Trust, but has to do an interview with Trevor Graydon III. This speed test is dictation but the number reminds me of Modern Major General from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance as it is sung so fast. Millie thinks that Trevor is the ideal man to marry, but he doesn’t show an interest and calls her John. Trevor is played by Graham MacDuff and gives the perfect ‘stiff upper lip straight man’ performance. His walk alone demands the audience to clap; he is excellent in the role. Millie has also made friends with a guy called Jimmy Smith, but only keeps him as a friend as he is not marriage material to her. As you can imagine, things do not go to plan and Jimmy and Millie fall in love. Jimmy is played by Sam Barrett and gives a rousing performance of this young carefree man in love when he was least expecting that. How is he not starring in La La Land?! Sam gives so much to this performance, he was the perfect male lead. Jimmy is well connected and knows the famous Muzzy van Hossmere. He takes her to a party and Muzzy gives Millie some good advice about love and marriage. Muzzy is played by Jenny Fitzpatrick and blew the audience away with her interpretation of Muzzy. Her voice was soulful and her character full of charm. You could almost hear everyone mouth ‘Wow’!
The whole story is rather predictable and almost has a ‘panto’ feel, but the show is so much fun, full of amazing choreography and dance numbers (Tango, Waltz, Charleston – you name it!), that along with the excellent cast give the show a real warmth and love. The only disappointment is the size of the translation board for the Chinese workers. It’s no good if we can’t see it in the circle!
Thoroughly Modern Millie is just what you need – add some sparkle to your life and go see this fantastic show.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is at Milton Keynes theatre until 28 January 2017 and then continues its UK tour.