‘Millie’ lights up David Douglas stage

Take a look, and you’ll see why ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’, now playing in outer East Portland, is a sure cure for the winter blues …

The central character proclaims she’s ready to conquer New York City – In this opening number of David Douglas High’s rollicking fall musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, now playing in the Hazelwood neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The time and effort put in by about 100 cast members, orchestra, and stage crew this fall has paid off, as the opening night applause demonstrated on November 9, when the David Douglas High School (DDHS) Performing Arts Department production of the rollicking musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, came to the stage of the Horner Performing Arts Center Theater.

Starting with the opening overture, expertly played by the 35-member all-student DDHS Orchestra under the baton of musical director and school instructor Jennifer Brooks-Muller, and continuing throughout the show – the instrumental backdrop for the show is top notch.

After a thief steals Millie’s purse,and shoe, her plans dramatically change.

As the curtain opens, the audience sees a fabulous art deco set, including stunning ironwork and painting created by the stage tech students led by Theater Manager Molly Stowe.

And, the show kicks off with spot-on dance and movement, thanks to the coaching of choreographer Lynette Velasquez.

Sincere Trust Insurance Co. heir Trevor Graydon III is startled and taken aback by the amorous advances of his new secretary, Millie.

As Millie aces a typing-speed test, the entire office breaks out in a Charleston dance number to cheer her on, ending in this finale.

“It’s a story set in the 1920s that was originally a motion picture released in the 1960s, and the revival has been on tour this year,” the show’s director, Michael Givler, told East Portland News.

While the scenes depict life in the “roaring 20s”, this musical – “Thoroughly Modern Millie” – is relevant today, Givler remarked, “because it’s about women who are determined to succeed, no matter what – in finding meaningful work, finding love, and conquering their world.”

After unsuccessfully tempting Miss Dorothy with a drugged apple, malevolent hotel manager Mrs. Meers reveals her past, singing “They Don’t Know”.

In a Manhattan night club, Jimmy and Millie look on while worldly-wise chanteuse Muzzy van Hossmere brassily proclaims her love of the town in the song, “Only in New York”.

The stage musical version of the show doesn’t end with a fireworks warehouse blowing up, as the movie did – but the DDHS student actors, singers and dancers truly do “light up” the stage with sparking songs, lively dance numbers, and intriguing situations.

Story in a nutshell
The story of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is centered on Millie Dillmount, delightfully played by State Drama Competition winner Sarah Muller. For Millie, no matter what hardships she may face, being in New York City is far better than staying in her lackluster hometown of Salina, Kansas.

Millie’s plans to marry a millionaire and live a life of excitement and luxury are almost immediately short-circuited, when a petty hoodlum robs her of everything, right down to her last penny.

After Millie’s plans to marry her rich boss go wrong, she realizes her affection for poor-but-loving Jimmy – oddly located on the outside window ledge of the Sincere Trust Company.

Instead of finding a rich man, she physically into Jimmy Smith, a paperclip salesman dapperly played by Ethan Blair, who suggests she get a room at the tacky “actress lodging”, the Hotel Priscilla, run by black-hearted washed-up actress who is now the head of a white slavery ring, Mrs. Meers – portrayed with delectable wickedness by another Drama Competition winner, Julia Archer.

In her nightclub, Muzzy and “Muzzy’s Boys” finish their big stage production, “Long as I’m Here with You”.

Millie befriends new arrival Ms. Dorothy Brown, charmingly played by the graceful Sasha Selva, and gets her a job at the Sincere Trust Company, where she sets her sights on marrying her boss, city’s most eligible wealthy bachelor, Trevor Greydon, III, adroitly played by Trefor Fitchner.

Mrs. Meers claims that, if they don’t help her kidnap more orphan girls, Ching Ho and Bun Foo will “never see their mother again” in this off-kilter rendition of “My Mammy”.

Mrs. Meers’ reluctant brother-and-sister henchmen Ching Ho, is played by Bruce Yan — and Bun Foo, is portrayed by Katie Vang. They both speak their lines and sing “Muqin”, (the song Al Jolson made famous, better known by its original English name, “My Mammy”), in perfect Chinese – parts that are not their native languages, which they learned phonetically!

Claire Plesha perfectly-plays the slinky, worldly-wise cabaret singer with a heart of gold, Muzzy van Hossmere, who helps unravel Mrs. Meers’ dastardly enterprise.

Will the romance between Miss Dorothy and Trevor Graydon bloom, as they sing and dance the number, “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life/Falling in Love with Someone”?

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 accompanying bubbly, high-stepping, stage-filling dance numbers, and show-stopping songs such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, “What Do I Need With Love”, “Forget About The Boy”, and “Only New York”.

  • Can Millie help Miss Dorothy escape the clutches of Mrs. Meers?
  • How might madcap Manhattan cabaret singer and heiress Muzzy van Hossmere help Millie find what she most desires?
  • Will Jimmy finally win Millie’s heart?

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

As the cast reprises the show’s title song, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, this colorful and lively family show comes to an end.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues in November
The overture begins playing for the DDHS Fall Musical’s evening shows at 7:30 p.m. on November 10 and again on November 15, 16, and 17. Or, see a Family Matinee on November 11 or 18 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10 for Adults | $8 for Students/Seniors. To reserve your tickets online, (they’ll hold them for two weeks) CLICK HERE, and buy them at the Box Office, open Monday-Wednesday-Friday from 3:00 until 5:30 p.m. on school days.

Both the theater and box office are located in the handicapped-accessible David Douglas High School Howard F. Horner Performing Arts Center, located at 1400 SE 130th Avenue, between Stark and Division streets.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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