WARTS 2011:Thoroughly Modern Miliie

2011 Thoroughly Modern Millie

The 2011 WARTS production was Thoroughly Modern Millie






Whitley’s hilarious production of Thoroughly Modern Millie will have you in stitches! By Acacia Nettleton (Age 13)

The Whitley Annual Residential Theatre Society (or WARTS) presents Thoroughly Modern Millie, a side-splitting comedy-romance first written by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan. This show, directed by Lisa Shalders, will have you in fits of laughter from the moment Millie's shoe is stolen off her foot to the final curtain call. Thoroughly Modern Millie has great characters, catchy songs and a light but engaging plot. 

Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in New York City in 1922. This was an era of massive change, right after the First World War, when alcohol was banned, but everyone just wanted to have a good time. It stars Millie Dillmount (Katherine Barton), a ‘modern woman’ who has grand plans to marry her boss, when she gets one. She moves to New York, where she meets the suave Jimmy Smith (Ben Zagami), who gives her the address of a boarding house. She soon finds herself a job as a secretary, and makes friend with Californian Miss Dorothy Brown (Celeste Bussell), a rich girl trying to be poor. Meanwhile the evil Mrs Meers (Will Stanley), who runs the boarding house, is secretly kidnapping orphans and sending them to Hong Kong as slaves. Soon several complicated love affairs spring up between Jimmy, Millie, Millie’s boss Trevor Graydon (Daniel Walder), Miss Dorothy and one of Mrs Meers’s sidekicks, Ching Ho (Samuel Lam). Thoroughly Modern Millie explores crime, communication and falling in love, with a fascinating setting of the American twenties. One of my favourite scenes is when the wicked Mrs Meers is trying to anesthetise Miss Dorothy, but keeps getting interrupted and has to act ‘innocently’ by cleaning the floor!

I think the main characters were all very well cast, although it was strange having someone so clearly not Asian playing the Asian brother of Ching Ho. Mrs Meers being played by a boy was also extremely funny. I thought Celeste Bussell as Miss Dorothy and Will Stanley as Mrs Meers were both exceptional. It must be very difficult to play the opposite gender, but Will did an amazing job and looked exceedingly sly and wicked. Miss Dorothy's sweet Californian accent and pretty smile were amazingly well acted and fitted the character perfectly. Unfortunately, Ben Zagami’s singing was quite husky as he was suffering from a bad cold, but he still managed to be charming. All the characters were comical, but quite believable, and they worked really well together. 

The stage-craft was excellent. The venue was the Open Stage Theatre, University of Melbourne, a small theatre without a raised stage, which gave it a personal feel. The lighting was great, with moving spotlights during solos and dim lights in clubs and bars. When a group of people were lined up to have a mug shot, each person stepped up and a bright light flashed as if a photo was being taken. My congratulations go to Callum Aberdour who was in charge of lighting. Costumes were suited to the time period, and were generally used effectively. The set design was amazing, with the simple moveable backdrops. The scene changed from the hotel to a party, and then to an alleyway, quickly and easily. The props were also used very well. Tables, chairs, trolleys (for the kidnap victims), office equipment, type-writers, plenty of roses, and even a window ledge were all used to successfully convey and compliment the story. Despite Ching Ho's brother Bun Foo (James White) clearly not being Asian, his make-up was used so well around his eyes that I think he would have looked Asian, if he had had black hair. Millie's actress friends at the boarding house always wore plenty of make-up, which fitted their characters perfectly. Miss Dorothy was also wearing make-up which had been excellently applied to make her look sweet and beautiful. The musicians, too, did a wonderful job, with quite complicated music, and they tied the performance together beautifully.

The stagecraft elements made the characters and entire performance seem more believable. They multiplied both the laughs and the meaningfulness of the show. They also worked seamlessly with the actors and story, and really added to the atmosphere in the audience. They help people in relating to the characters, and understanding more about the setting and the era.

The best things about this performance were the enthusiasm and humour. Everything is hilariously funny, even the interval announcement and the curtain call, which are normally the most boring parts of the show. The fantastically hiss-able villainess, and the tough and ambitious heroine, the sweet Miss Dorothy and the smooth-speaking Jimmy, all bring to the show an infectious enthusiasm that the audience love, despite the shows small imperfections. They could perhaps have been more careful with the costumes, and enlisted someone to be the main organiser for that. They could have cast Bun Foo better, or given him a black wig. Although it was not perfect, it was very entertaining and greatly enjoyed by the audience. Altogether I thoroughly recommend Whitley’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie