Thoroughly Modern Millie
On at The Landor until 13th September 2015
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a twee, joyful, and utterly absurd musical, with a large side order of charm. The stage show, based on the 1960’s film starring Julie Andrews, arrived with force on the Landor stage this week. You might think this a small stage to bring such a large musical to, however they pull it off with incredible skill. Tightly choreographed dances alongside the slick ensemble work are an absolute highlight of the piece, and it’s worth going along to witness these alone.
Francesca Lara Gordon plays Millie – she has us on side from the moment she enters, wide-eyed, adorable and easy to love – with a strong voice, to carry all of Millie’s numbers with the power they require. She plays opposite Ben Stacy who creates a charming Jimmy Smith. Christina Meehan shines out as ensemble, playing a variety of roles, each and every one hilarious and watchable – I particularly loved her Miss Flannery, truly shining in ‘Forget About the Boy,’.
Age wise, the casting’s slightly off for Muzzy Van Hosmere [Chipo Kureya] and some of the final gags would have been funnier had she have been cast at the correct age, it would also have brought some generational diversity to the cast – the twenty somethings dominate London’s stages and when there is a character who’s casting age is 40+ (particularly a female one) it would be great to see the roles cast age appropriately.
Based on the ‘White Slave Trade’, it explores the kidnap, trafficking and prostitution that took place in NYC in the 1920s, the play makes light of the terrible happenings, especially via the comedy villain Mrs Meers [Steph Parry]. She is a great performer, with a delicious voice. I at times questioned the direction [by Matthew Iliffe] of her accent and portrayal of this character – it felt as though it often veered away from the PC-ness often boasted by London’s fringe stages. It raised the question for me – is presenting a character who’s actions are offensive, the same as producing a offensive production? She played the Chinese accent for laughs, and although it received a few titters from the audience, on the whole it seemed to bring a little discomfort to the theatre, which made me wonder if director in 2015 should approach the role of Mrs Mears with a little more sensitivity and political correctness, we have, after all, come a long way since the film was produced in the 1960s.
Andrew Riley’s design makes the space feel larger than it is, metallic panels adorning the walls are reminiscent of the Chrysler building, and a screen used to create an elevator is a clever addition to the set. The brashness of it, sets of the cast perfectly, and the costumes really are a delight.
The songs and choreography are the strengths of this production, a little more detail to the other parts would have been welcome, but all in all it’s one to catch if you’re in South London anytime soon.
Thoroughly Modern Millie runs at The Landor until 13th Sept 2015
The Landor Theatre is a great venue and the pub below serves pub food and snacks from 5pm onwards. We’d totally recommend it!