‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ enchants audiences at David Douglas High’s theater

See how this high-energy lavish production – now on stage for the next two weeks –brings together a mystery, comedy, song and dance, making it a great family event to start off the holiday season …

Just off the train from Kansas, Millie Dillmount (Marissa Hanson) is looking forward to the excitement of living – and of marrying well – in New York City.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s no surprise that audiences are enjoying the David Douglas High School Performing Arts Department fall musical that opened on December 3, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

DDHS’s theater instructor and the show’s director, Michael Givler, was all smiles as the opening audience laughed and cheered at the show, presented by nearly 100 cast members, chorus singers, dancers, and orchestra musicians.

Many stage musicals are later made into motion pictures, Givler observed. But, in this case, its musical stage production is based on a 1967 motion picture – starring Julie Andrews as the central character, supported by Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing, and a host of other stars.

“This show is both fun and challenging for our cast,” Givler said. “It brings together students as they act, sing, dance, and perform live music for the show.”

In the show’s first production number, snazzy gents and roaring ’20s “flappers” welcome Millie to the big city.

The frivolity ends abruptly, as grifters take all of Millie’s worldly possessions.

About the story
Thoroughly Modern Millie” – a delightful spoof of the roaring 1920s – is considered to be one of the better motion picture musicals produced in the 1960s.

The story revolves around Millie Dillmount, who “escapes” her drab hometown of Salina, Kansas, looking for excitement under the bright lights of New York City. Millie is determined to marry a wealthy man, and live a life of luxury.

“Millie does find excitement,” Givler said with a sly smile. “Upon her arrival in NYC, she promptly gets mugged. But, the plucky young lady finds a job, falls in love, and stays in a hotel for young ladies run by the sinister Mrs. Meers. The plot thickens as girls begin disappearing from the hotel.”

But, can Millie type? In this office number, Millie shows her new boss she’s got the “right stuff” in this scene.

Back at Millie’s lodging – the Hotel Priscilla – reluctant henchmen Bun Foo (Shelby Trinh) and Ching Ho (Ken Tang) help the evil Mrs. Meers (Micah Sullivan) kidnap unsuspecting young ladies unfortunate enough to have disclosed that they were orphans.

A colorful cast of characters fills out this lively musical that has “all of New York dancing the Charleston”. It includes big band jazz numbers, and show-stopping songs such as “What Do I Need with Love”, “Forget About the Boy”, and “Only New York”.

Millie does her best to coax her boss, Trevor Graydon, into marrying her – a “thoroughly modern” concept, she states. But, Jimmy Smith, a seemingly a poor-but-fun-loving paper-clip salesman, befriends Millie and hopes to win her affection.

  • Can Millie’s new best girlfriend, Miss Dorothy, escape the clutches of the sinister and mysterious proprietor of the Hotel Priscilla, Mrs. Meers – and her henchmen, Ching Ho and Bun Foo?
  • How can the madcap Manhattan cabaret singer and heiress, Muzzy van Hossmere, help Millie find what she most desires?

Find out, by attending this lively production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

After a raucous romp in a speakeasy, Jimmy Smith (Corey T-Cedarleaf) is supported by his pals in jail, when he musically asks the question, “What Do I Need With Love?” as Millie listens from another cell.

Bun Foo tries to talk his brother, Ching Ho, into helping Mrs. Meers use chloroform to knock out the unaware Miss Dorothy (Annie Ralston), her next victim – a dirty deed Ching Ho is reluctant to perform, being hopelessly smitten by the ingénue.

Because her new boss, Trevor Graydon (Josh McKinley) thinks of Millie only as an able office worker (calling her “Johnny – on the spot”), Millie turns up the charm, hoping to spark romance.

Meet the cast and crew
Marissa Hanson plays the title character, Millie, with energetic aplomb, as her character transforms from a hayseed girl to a street-smart “modern woman”.

Mackenzie Adrian perfectly plays the slinky, worldly-wise cabaret singer with a heart of gold, Muzzy van Hossmere. And, as Mrs. Meers, the proprietress of the seedy “Hotel Priscilla”, Micah Sullivan portrays the delightfully wicked villain.

Josh McKinley, ably acts, sings and dances in his role of Millie’s new fast-dictating boss, Trevor Graydon; as does Corey T-Cedarleaf, as he plays the poor, but good-hearted Jimmy Smith – who hopes to win Millie’s heart.

Miss Dorothy arrives at the office, and Trevor Graydon is immediately infatuated with her.

With Millie’s prospects of marrying Trevor Graydon dashed – and Jimmy Smith ready to jump out the office window because of Millie’s continued romantic rejection – the pair finally find common ground.

Mrs. Meers, together with her reluctant henchmen Ching Ho (Ken Tang) and Bun Foo (Shelby Trinh), perform a delightful parody rendition of “Muq?n”, (the song Al Jolson made famous, better known by its original English name, “My Mammy”) – in Chinese!

While these main character actors snappily move the story along – the stage-filling dance routines, choreographed by Lynette Velasquez, gives this production verve. And, it’s clear that the show’s vocal director, Christopher Silva, well-coached the soloists and chorus members. Costume designer Judy LeCoq and her crew of thirteen costumers dressed the cast spot-on for this period piece. Jennifer Muller directs the David Douglas High Orchestra nightly; and East Portland’s premier accompanist, Jodyne Holloway, works her musical magic during the shows, as she did during countless hours of rehearsals.

Show sparkles with stunning sets and evocative lighting
The show’s technical director, and DDHS Theater Tech instructor, Mark L. Taylor, and his student crew have built a magnificently-decorated two-story stage set that includes an ornate, wrought-iron, functional elevator. As in the movie version – the stubborn elevator works only when the riders tap-dance in it!

The highly-proficient crew of twenty student theater technicians makes complex scene changes look effortless as they manage the stage and operate the lighting, sound and special effects.

Slinky chanteuse Muzzy van Hossmere (Mackenzie Adrian) proves to be more than top-notch nightclub entertainer; she also helps solve the mystery of the disappearing girls from the hotel, and, helps Millie find her true love.

Tickets still available for early December run
Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues on December 4 and 5; then again on December 10, 11 and 12.

There’s a special matinee performance on Sunday, December 6 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets – on sale right now – are $10 for adults, and $7 for students and seniors. The box office has been open for a week, and this show is sure to sell out quickly. Boxoffice hours are Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 3 until 5:30 p.m. on school days, and an hour before show time.

Or, call (503) 261-8270 for more information. The David Douglas High School Horner Performing Arts Center is located at 1400 SE 130th Avenue.

Be sure see “Thoroughly Modern Millie” – now playing at the Horner Performing Arts Theater at David Douglas High School.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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