Review of Thoroughly Modern Millie

On August 1st, 2013, posted in: Archive, Concert Band, Culture, Drama, Jazz Band, News by



The hit  stage show ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ – based on the book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlen – is currently on at Wynberg Girls’ High, a joint production between the boys’ and girls’ schools.  And what a success it is proving to be!   Slick, polished, beautifully staged and costumed, this ‘Millie’ is going to have audiences begging for more before the end of its run.

The Directors – Keenan Tyler Oliphant, Lindsay Will, Clinton Claasen and Trish Notcutt – have simply done a superb job. Working with a young and pretty well untried cast , they have brought a professional sheen to a show that bubbles with energy, wit and sheer good fun.

Because it’s a musical, the work of the singers and band deserves first and very high praise. The solo work was uniformly good, quite heavily amplified it is true but pleasing in every number. The chorus work was joyous – that’s the best word to describe those rows of happy faces and angel voices! Clinton Claasen’s tempi, control and seamless linking between the songs and speaking parts was first- class.  Just a touch too much volume for this reviewer however but nothing that became tiresome. The music and singing was enjoyable throughout.

Staging was great.  Sets changed, transformed themselves, adapted effortlessly from interiors to city skycrapers  without hindering the flow of the narrative. Backstage crew worked well – very deft stage management was apparent – all properties and set details were carefully seen to. Great efforts had been expended on the female costumes and these were colourful, perfectly in period and obviously fun to wear – the cocktail gowns were especially good.  More could have been done with the boys’ costumes – the grey suits were, well, grey and boys’ costuming generally lacked the panache of their female counterparts.

The choreography was for me a highlight of the show.  Heads down and legs pumping, did those dames get stuck into their Charleston numbers or what!  Beads swinging, tassles flying, it was SHEER TWENTIES come to life!  The tap shoes simply thundered on the stage and brought the audience to their feet, roaring their applause!  The dancing and movement generally was quite brilliant and contributed hugely to the success of the show.  The typing pool scenes were very imaginatively conceived and had a special style – strange, those desks and chairs emerging onto the stage with an odd animation of their own– furniture on the march!

I reserve first praise for three female characters, Millie Dillmount herself (Georgia  Bailey) Mrs Meers (Schael Igwe) and Muzzie Van Hossmere (Bulumko Woji).  Georgia kept the story vibrant and connected, she remained really professional in appearance and voice; Schael was excellent in her comedic and sinister role (one strained to catch much of her dialogue however, when she wasn’t shouting – perhaps poorly miked?) This girl has excellent timing and a real feeling for farce. Bulumko as Mrs Van H was a joy to behold – shimmering, great vocal power and she moved so well!  Dorothy and Miss Flannery acted well, sustaining their characters convincingly.

Of the male leads, Kelton Goertz as Jimmy and Dillon Birns as Mr Graydon; they were evenly matched, I thought, Jimmy softly persuasive and constant, Dillon acting more engagingly and strongly than when we last saw him on the stage. I enjoyed, most of all, Mr Graydon’s scene with Dorothy – ‘Ah Sweet Mystery of Life…”  It was simply hilarious and full of beautifully observed pieces of ‘business’ and fun on Dillon’s part.  Wesley Lerwill and Pierre Issa as ‘Chingo Ho’ and ‘Bun Foo’ (who thinks up these names – do they mean something frightful in Mandarin or something?) came close to stealing the show with their marvellous double act. They looked great, sounded wonderful and enchanted the audience!

My one or two tiny criticisms aside, I have extremely high praise for this production which, artistically, musically and dramatically approaches what one refers to as ‘ professional theatre.’
Warmest congratulations to Directors, cast, and musicians for giving so much of themselves to make an evening of really first-class entertainment!  The audience rolled away into the night chuckling and recounting the show’s highlights.

Neil Veitch