19 January 2017

Thoroughly Modern Millie at New Wimbledon Theatre was thoroughly entertaining

I was obviously aware of the Julie Andrews' film Thoroughly Modern Millie but I never saw it. Likewise I was aware of Strictly but had never seen that either. Despite that I was drawn to their coming together at New Wimbledon Theatre and was drawn enough to pay £44 for a premium seat, Dress Circle Row A Seat 18.

My plan was not to have a drink beforehand because I remembered just how expensive they are there but my resolve melted when I saw the large bottles of Budvar (i.e. the Czech version of the otherwise undrinkable Budweiser). I was either charged a lot for the tap water that I had with it or that pint cost me over £8. Still, it was a good pint.

It was just going in to find my seat that I asked one of the staff what the running time was and was a little surprised, and worried, to hear that it was the best part of three hours with a first half lasting 80 minutes, a decent interval and then a second half of another 60 minutes. That is not a lot longer than the usual two hours plus interval but my attention can drift in the first half and 80 minutes is a long time to struggle with a slow show.

The seat proved to be a good one with a fine view, no problems with safety rails and a decent amount of legroom.

The show opened with Millie arriving in New York from Kansas seeking bright lights and excitement. She sang the only song I knew from the show, the title song, which helped to warm the crowd up.

Then she was robbed and lost everything and, in separation, tripped up a passing man to try and get some help. Through him she found some lodgings for young actresses which was also the front for a white-slave operation led by the boarding house's owner Mrs Meers. Things got better for Millie as she got a job as a stenographer (remember shorthand?) and started to make a play for her rich boss.

The story had lots of elements to it and while some of the main threads were obvious, as they should be in a Rom Com, there was plenty in the story to keep me engaged.

At the centre of it all, of course, was Millie and Joanne Clifton sparkled in the role. Her pedigree was in dancing and while there were not many showboat dances there was dancing throughout. I especially liked the tap dancing that the office workers did while sitting at their typewriters as their desks slid around the floor.

It was this attention to detail, and Joanne Clifton's performance, that made the show. There were plenty of songs, all of which I've now forgotten, and while they did not make much of a lasting impression they did add to the mood. The comedy came from the characters and Graham MacDuff was brilliant as Millie's stuffy boss. Mrs Meers, who was supposed to be the main comedy character (I think) was somewhat less successful partially because I did not get on with her stereotypical Chinese accent. Thankfully Mrs Meers was one little setback in a long show that had a great deal going for it otherwise.

Thoroughly Modern Millie was a well crafted show that made the most of the story and the music. Throw in lots of dancing and some good characters and it was a thoroughly entertaining evening.

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