Millie Dillmount’s endearing quest for love and opportunity in the Big Apple during the Roaring ‘20s is well secured in the Dayton Playhouse’s admirable “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” adapted by Richard Morris, Dick Scanlan and Jeanine Tesori based on the 1967 film of the same name.
Under the direction of Gayle Smith, who replaced director/choreographer Richard Croskey prior to the show’s opening, Playhouse newcomer and pleasant vocalist Abby McLean fits comfortably into the colorful persona of the bubbly yet easily perturbed Millie, who craves a better life than her Kansas hometown can supply. Effectively conveying Millie’s fervent desire to become an assertively empowered woman, McLean is especially winning while navigating the engaging relationships key to the adventure at hand. In fact, McLean’s best scenes occur opposite the amusingly uptight and domineering Ryan Fark as Millie’s stern boss Trevor Graydon and the very appealing and confident David Thomas in one of his best performances as easygoing ne’er-do-well Jimmy Smith. In particular, Thomas and McLean’s beautifully tender rendition of “I Turned the Corner” clearly reenergizes the emotional sparks necessary between Millie and Jimmy for McLean to deliver a joyously heartfelt “Gimme Gimme,” the musical’s capstone.
Additionally, the elegant Elana D. Elmore, attractively costumed by Kathy White, nearly steals the show as sophisticated chanteuse Muzzy Van Hossmere, a role she memorably portrayed five years ago in the Muse Machine’s outstanding production. Elmore’s genuine grace and soaring vocals (she received a B.A. in music vocal performance from Hampton University) are a significant attraction. It’s safe to say no one in this town has sung “Only in New York” and “Long As I’m Here With You” better.
Elsewhere, fine soprano Annie Nereng decently embodies Miss Dorothy Brown, humorously smitten by Graydon. As the dastardly Mrs. Meers, dabbling in the white slavery trade, Cathy Long has a tendency to deliver her lines leisurely, which chips away at the strength of Meers’ magnetism, but her rendition of “They Don’t Know” hits the mark nonetheless. Malcolm Casey (Ching Ho) and Naman Clark (Bun Foo) are obviously miscast as Asian brothers but are commendably focused. Marabeth Klejna adds flavor to the committed ensemble as Miss Flannery, Graydon’s dutiful secretary. Ever-reliable musical director Ron Kindell leads another solid orchestra.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” continues through March 17 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 75 minutes; Act Two: 50 minutes. Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.org.
In related news, the Playhouse’s 2013-14 season will consist of “Hairspray” (Sept. 6-22, 2013, co-directed by Tina McPhearson and Fran Pesch), “Deathtrap” (Oct. 18-27, 2013, directed by Jennifer Lockwood), “Fellow Passengers” (Dec. 6-15, 2013, directed by Dodie Lockwood), “Working” (Jan. 31-Feb. 16, 2014, directed by Jim Lockwood), “Whales of August” (March 14-23, 2014, directed by John Riley), and “Oklahoma!” (May 1-18, 2014, directed by Brian Sharp). Season tickets are available for a six-show option of $85 for adults and $75 for students/seniors) or a four-show option of $60 for adults and $55 for students/seniors). For more information, call call (937) 424-8477 or visit www.daytonplayhouse.org.