WOW!'s most recent show “Thoroughly Modern Millie” ran from 18-23 February 2019.
Based on the 1967 Academy Award-winning film, Thoroughly Modern Millie takes you back to the height of the Jazz Age in New York City, when "moderns," including a flapper named Millie Dillmount, were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and rewriting the rules of love. This high-spirited musical romp is a delightful valentine to the long-standing spirit of New York City and the people who seek to discover themselves there.
Set in New York City in 1922, Thoroughly Modern Millie tells the story of young Millie Dillmount from Kansas, who comes to New York in search of a new life for herself. Her grand plan is to find a job as a secretary for a wealthy man and then marry him. However, her plan goes completely awry. The owner of her dingy hotel kidnaps young girls to sell to the Far East, her wealthy boss is slow in proposing marriage and the man she actually falls in love with doesn't have a dime to his name... or so he tells her.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Date: 23rd February 2019
Society: Witham Operatic Workshop
Director: Claire Carr
Musical Director: Susannah Edom
Choreographer: Claire Carr
I was warmly welcomed by Debbie Rolph, Front of House Manager who explained that WOW is the junior section of Witham Amateur Operatic Society and that all performers in this production ranged in age from 11 years to 18 years with the majority under 16 years.
This was a sparkling and very energetic performance of this well known musical. The production got off to a cracking start with Millie and the company singing and dancing to the title song. Millie, played by Yasmin Sharp (aged 18) was on stage constantly throughout the show and carried this role with great skill and energy. She had some wonderful facial expressions and a powerful voice which suited both the up tempo numbers and the ballads eg ‘Jimmy’. Jimmy Smith, played by Ben Collins (aged 17) acted the part very well and delivered his solo ’What Do I Need With Love’ with great feeling.
Mrs Meers, played by Lily Downes (aged 19) filled the stage with her dominant presence and extravagant manner. She was suitably evil and scheming and sang ‘They Don’t Know’ with incredible power. Her repartie with the 2 Chinese laundry hands, Ching Ho and Bun Foo, played by Ryan Wuyts (aged 15) and William Hackett (aged 14) was excellent and her expressions captured the essence of the character so well. I believe that the laundry hands may have had to learn some Mandarin so well done. Of course, the audience appreciated the on screen translations !
Miss Dorothy Brown, played by Poppy Fisher (aged 15) came across as a sweet and rather naive girl who fell prey to Mrs Meers evil intent. Trevor Graydon, played by Tom Nicoll (aged 17) was an immensely charming Head of the Sincere Trust Insurance Company and really stunned the audience with his lovely singing voice especially in ‘Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life’ with Miss Dorothy. Muzzy, played by Hattie Phillips (age 13) and Miss Flannery, played by Mia Nichols (age 14) carried their roles well.
The direction and choreography throughout was superb and many congratulations to Claire Carr for having the vision to make this production so very good. The dancing and tapping throughout was impeccable with no one out of step or time. The large, talented band, with Musical Director Susannah Edom, was accomplished and versatile and provided excellent musical support and volume throughout.
The set and scenery was effective and relatively straightforward and Stage Manager David Hunt, supported by the crew, made the changes seamlessly. There was a large team in support of the production, including lighting, sound, properties, makeup and wigs. I must mention the costuming and wardrobe team as the outfits were stunning and helped to create the 1922s feel.
In summary, this was a first class production by a very talented group played to a very appreciative audience. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and my congratulations to everyone involved.
Review by Ron Fosker, Braintree and Witham Times
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Witham Public Hall
No fewer than 145 costumes – and almost as many wigs – had to be hired to put on Thoroughly Modern Millie, the latest production from the Witham teenage group WOW.
The 30-strong ensemble made full use of them in a vibrant and colourful performance.
In their flapper dresses and sharp suits, the cast evoked the 1920s, both stylish and stylised, with Flapper dresses and the Charleston to the fore.
Particularly effective was the typing-tapping routine where the typewriters’ clatter was mimicked by the dancers’ feet.
There are some deliberately over-the-top performances, notably from Lily Downes as the frighteningly forceful Mrs Meers and Tom Nicoll as the fast-talking boss with the rich baritone voice.
Poppy Fisher shimmered nicely as Miss Dorothy while Ben Collins channelled his inner Sinatra as the Pal Joey-like Jimmy Smith.
The show was almost stolen by Ryan Wuyts and William Hackett, who both learned Mandarin Chinese to play Ching Ho and Bun Foo – and they were not negligible roles either.
But towering above it all was the outstanding Yasmin Sharp in the ultra demanding title role. She offered some welcome light and shade amid the occasional freneticism and carried off the role with aplomb: a controlled singing voice, sharp wit and nailed-on delivery.
Theatrelife Review by Christine Davidson (theatrelife.org)
WOW never fails to deliver strong performances and their latest show is no exception. Directed by Claire Carr, she presented to us a really superb, bright and excellent production. Choreographer, Claire made this show sparkle and the almost full house on the first night proves that this is a winner.
A very strong cast provided excellent performances from everyone. Set in the roaring twenties in New York young Yasmin Sharp playing Millie Dilmount; was superb in the leading role. Her musicality, singing, dancing and all round characterisation of the role, showed just how much work she had put in to become Millie. Indeed I forgot that she was an amateur, such was her professional attitude on stage. This was a really strong performance from this very talented young lady.
The two male leads were also excellent. Ben Collins as Jimmy Smith and Tom Nicoll as Trevor Graydon, both had superb singing voices and had great stage presence. They both were very confident and you could see how much they were enjoying their individual roles. I understand that Ben has been offered a three year BA Hons degree course at Emil Dale Academy and I truly hope to see Ben on the West End Stage in the future.
Another superb, strong lady on stage was Lily Downes as the evil Chinese Mrs Meers. She gave us a wonderful OTT performance. Think Pantomime evil dame and she had it in spades. With her were her two underlings, Ryan Wuyts as Ching Ho and William Hackett as Bun Foo who were very comedic and kept their Chinese accents throughout. It was fun to have the translation at stage left for us all to understand what they were singing about.
Miss Dorothy (Poppy Fisher) was beautifully played with a languid quiet air, giving us a delightful performance and with a clear singing voice. Muzzy Van Hossmere (Hattie Phillips) was the glamorous nightclub singer and actress who at the end was found out to be Jimmy’s mother. At only thirteen she gave us a confident mature performance and obviously enjoyed the role.
A wonderful over the top ginger wig for Miss Flannery (Mia Nichols) helped to make her role a really funny one, and she delivered her speeches eloquently.
The ensembles were terrific with great timing, especially the tap dancing sequences. The orchestra conducted by Musical Director Susannah Edom were excellent. The music was never too loud and allowed us to easily here the singers.
The costumes and wigs were superb. Indeed the wardrobe team and Patsy Page must be commended for the incredible amount of work involved in organising all of this.
Scenery was simple and the backstage crew were very competent. Considering it was first night and two of the crew were not there, they had it all down to a T with only a couple of little problems which were soon rectified. Lighting was good although sometimes some of the cast did not find their light, and the follow spot occasionally was a little slow but I’m sure that now that they have one show under their belts this will not happen again.
The whole show was a delight and huge congratulations to everyone involved. You all should be very proud of your achievements and I urge everyone to book a ticket and see this Thoroughly Modern show.
Sardines Review by Michael Gray (sardinesmagazine.co.uk
Performance date: 18 Feb 2019
Venue: Public Hall Witham
Reviewer/s: Michael Gray (Sardines review)
Tappers, flappers and bespectacled shorthand typists. Not to mention an ageing chanteuse, a white slaver and her Asiatic henchmen, and two eligible chaps in business in the Big Apple.
All of them brought to vibrant life in Claire Carr’s energetic production for WOW!
It’s a long show, with uneven plotting. Some of its best music is borrowed. So a considerable achievement to keep us entertained, and often enchanted, for the best part of three hours.
The staging is unfailingly stylish. Simple skyscrapers, mobile desks for the typing pool, and stunning 20s costumes. Constant delights, from the title number to the chorus line tableau for the finale. Wonderfully ambitious choreography, with more than one nod to Busby Berkeley, and great tap routines, though not, alas, for the recalcitrant elevator in the Priscilla Hotel. And some amazingly talented young people to bring those very varied characters to the stage.
Millie herself, a modern woman who arrives in New York from Selina, KS, is superbly played Yasmin Sharp. No opening chorus for this show, just Ms Dillmount and her valises for a beautifully delivered Not for the Life of Me. She builds her big Act Two number – Gimme Gimme – very effectively, too. Her bestie – the Californian aspiring actress Miss Dorothy, is delightfully done by Poppy Fisher.
The big “character part” here is the enigmatically evil Mrs Meers, an opportunity grabbed with both hands by the excellent Lily Downes, her voice booming and swooping as she cajoles, plots and schemes. Her two Chinese sidekicks are William Hackett and Ryan Wuyts, a most engaging duo, delivering most of their dialogue in surtitled Mandarin.
Hattie Phillips tackles the Carol Channing role of Muzzy Van Hossmere, strikingly gowned in white for her Only in New York big number.
Two contrasting characterizations from the men in Millie’s life: Ben Collins is paper-clip entrepreneur Jimmy Smith, a cool, laid-back performance with great stage presence, dispensing worldly-wise advice and making the most of What Do I Need With Love from behind bars. Trevor Graydon III, head honcho at Sincere Trust, is confidently played by Tom Nicoll, using his fine vocal talents to excellent effect in old-fashioned love duets.
Innumerable treats from the ensemble: Mia Nichols’ formidable Miss Flannery, Bethany Bird’s Pearl Lady, the hotel girls, the disgruntled diners and many more, down to Mammy stealing the final bow.
The Twenties vibe is excellently supported by Musical Director Susannah Edom and her brilliant pit band; the pastiche period hits, the Sullivan patter song, the Naughty Marietta duets all spot-on.
More than half a century since the original film hit our screens. Much has changed in the meantime – today’s world would not dream of yellow-face performers recalling a famous black-face number – but the show remains a popular period piece. The challenge here is to create a 60s take on the 20s, and to empower young musical theatre performers with skills, confidence and style that should take years to acquire. A challenge triumphantly met in the Public Hall, to the obvious delight of a packed audience on opening night.
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