A small town girl’s quest to find a rich husband in 1920’s New York and the antics that ensue will play out on the Whitehall stage this weekend.
Under the co-direction of Chris Palmer and Marc Pratt, the Whitehall Drama Club will present the Tony Award winning musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” on the Whitehall stage this weekend.
“It’s a funny little show,” said Palmer, who is at the helm of the annual production for the 12th time and is the district’s choral director. “It’s a good match with this particular group of kids.”
The musical, which is based on a 1967 film of the same name starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, tells the story of Millie Dillmount, a young “modern” woman from Salina, Kansas who comes to New York City during the Roaring Twenties looking to marry a man, not for love, but for money.
Shortly after moving to the city Millie begins to take delight in the flapper lifestyle, but problems arise when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a white slavery ring in China.
Hilarious antics follow as Millie tries to decide whether she will marry her rich boss, Trevor Graydon III, or Jimmy Smith, an attractive young paperclip salesman, who unbeknownst to Millie, is heir to a considerable fortunate.
“It’s a very funny show, especially if you watch it in an adult state of mind,” said Stefan Lemery, who plays the role of Jimmy.
A cast of nearly two dozen students and an orchestra consisting of another 10 students have been working on the performance since the beginning of the year.
Palmer said auditions were held the first week of January, roles were announced shortly thereafter and the kids have been practicing and rehearsing their lines four days a week ever since. That intensity has been picked up a notch this week (in what students have playfully dubbed “hell week”) as students rehearse for four hours every night.
As is the case every year, the production presents a range of challenges for everyone involved.
For Palmer and the stage crew, it’s been getting used to a new auditorium with new lights and acoustics. For students, it’s been time management and memorizing their lines.
“The hardest part has been juggling all the activities and learning all my lines,” said Rebecca Lavin, who plays the lead role of Millie.
Lavin has found a unique and personal space to practice her lines and memorize the lyrics to the near dozen songs she’ll perform during this weekend’s production.
“I’ve been singing in the shower,” she said.
Other challenges have been more personal. Chris Talbert and Andreas Meyer Giesow, who play the roles of Bun Foo and Ching Ho, respectively, have both had to learn Mandarin Chinese. Adam Koeble had half the time to learn the role of Trevor after a fellow cast member dropped out and Ali LeClair, who was a dead ringer as Annie in last year’s production, but has had to adjust to an unfamiliar play and role as Miss Dorothy Brown.
And members of the orchestra have had only a few weeks to get acclimated with the music.
“The music isn’t difficult but it is fast,” said flutist Dominique Pope.
And while nearly the entire cast admitted to being nervous, they are confident all the preparation will pay.
“You get in Zen mode,” Talbert said. “It all comes together by the end.”
“We’re looking forward to dazzling the audience,” Palmer said.
Performances of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” will be staged tomorrow at 7 p.m. and 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the show cost $5 and will be available at the door.