Crighton’s Pleasant “MILLIE” Avoids Near Calamity

Cast of Crighton Theater’s THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE

                      By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III     “The People’s Critic”

[Click any photo to enlarge]

Lizzie Camp as Millie & Cain Hamilton as Jimmy

It was not your normal Saturday night at the beautiful Crighton Theater last weekend in downtown Conroe, Texas. As might be expected, the current Broadway musical revival of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” from the resident Stage Right Productions Company, was full of many charms from the eager cast of local talent, with lively direction from Manny Cafeo.

Millie leads the flappers

That’s the good news, so let me be more specific. The cheerful musical has Music by Jeanine Tesori & Lyrics by Dick Scanlan (and the latter also collaborated with Richard Morris on the Book). The Roaring Twenties period plotline surrounds the arrival in New York City of young Millie Dillmount (Lizzie Camp) from her native Kansas.

The Priscilla Hotel Girls

She is eager to conquer the Big Apple with her secretarial skills while hopefully finding the well-to-do man of her dreams.

Millie (Left) welcomes new friend, Dorothy (Madison Mapes)

Her bright optimism is quickly challenged as she is robbed on the street, and then suddenly bumps into (literally) a young man named Jimmy (Cain Hamilton), who abruptly advises that she first spend the night at the cheesy Hotel Priscilla that caters to struggling young career girls, and then head back to Kansas where she came from.

Chinese fun from (L-R) Ara Hollyday, Carolyn Wong and Steven Wong

The hotel owner is the conniving and sinister, Mrs. Meers (coyly played for plenty of laughs by Carolyn Corsano Wong). Meers likes nothing better than to capture young girls with no family and ship them off to the Chinese white slavery trade. She has two bumbling Chinese laundry boys (amusingly played by Ara Hollyday and Steven Wong) who want nothing more than to bring their aging mother to America from Hong Kong. (Don’t miss their uproarious Chinese rendition of the song “Mammy,” and the sur titles projecting English translations of their silly banter above the stage).

Millie’s secretarial speed test with Mr. Graydon (Michael Martin).

Meanwhile, during a terrific and tongue-twisting duet of “The Speed Test,” Millie lands a job as personal secretary to the man she hopes to marry, wealthy Trevor Graydon III (Michael Martin), the boss of Sincere Trust Co. Millie’s marriage plan is complicated with the arrival at the hotel of a classy ingénue named Dorothy (Madison Mapes).

Love at first sight for Mr. Graydon & Miss Dorothy

Dorothy soon catches the eye of Mr. Graydon herself during their hilarious first-meeting duet spoofing the style of Nelson Eddy & Jeanette Mac Donald with a medley of “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life”/”I’m Falling in Love with Someone.” It must be mentioned that the secretarial pool of talented young gals in this cast is clearly one of the stars of the show as they bring absolutely wonderful singing and tap dancing to the show, even when rolling around on their office chairs.

The tapping secretaries

Similarly, the many-talented ensemble cast of characters from the hotel light up the show repeatedly with great song and dance for the production’s many lovely tunes. (Choreographer, Dinah Mahlman, Musical Director, Ana Guirola-Ladd).

White tie & tails at the elegant home of Muzzy Van Hossmere (Chrisina Sato)

Also stars of the production were the fabulous costume designs from Abby Cleverly and Denise Schmidt-Debold, giving us a virtual fashion show of Roaring Twenties designs, including sensational fringed flapper dresses for the great Charleston dances, and fabulous evening gowns for chic party scenes at the elegant home of socialite, Muzzy Van Hossmere (Chrisina Sato). Scenic design was sometimes modest with a near-bare stage, excepting the painted backdrop of Manhattan’s skyline.

Another show stopping number and glamorous gown for Muzzy

But on the other hand, Set Designer, Ms. Schmidt-Debold, and her team, have created a very fine, two-tiered Hotel Priscilla, complete with functioning elevator at center stage. Both Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Martin deliver solid vocals, as do Miss Mapes, Miss Sato, and of course, Miss Camp in the title role. Having said that, I would caution that there were some moments when vocalists seemed to come on too strong with lovely lyrics that could be enhanced by the singers simply relaxing a bit to let the song do the work without unnecessary antics.

Now for the promised bad news that could have been much worse. Toward the end of Act One there was a sudden flash of light with a frightening and thunderous crash from somewhere in the theater, and at that same moment a solid object fell from the balcony, landing directly on the head of Woodlands resident, Debbie Little, one of my guests, who was seated right beside me.

Crighton front-house manager, Phil Clarke, took quick action during intermission to re-secure the balcony spotlight.

We soon discovered it was a sizable and solid screw knob that had failed in securing to an upstairs tripod, the enormous long spotlight that was at the edge of the balcony directly above the seats where I and my friends were sitting. By the grace of God we would soon learn that the crash we all heard was the collapse of that heavy spotlight which thankfully fell sideways against the balcony wall and not over the edge of the balcony where it could very well have killed one or more of us below. The show continued, along with a buzz of alarm that circulated among the audience. As Act One ended, two teen-aged youngsters who had been associated with the operation of that spotlight came downstairs in search of the missing screw knob that had struck Miss Little on the head. She was stunned and frightened, but thankfully not seriously injured. Front house manager, Phil Clarke, member of Stage Right’s Board of Directors, quickly came to assist us, and then went upstairs to stabilize that dangerous spotlight situation. Needless to say, we changed our seats for Act Two, and as I write these lines I have just received profuse apologies from Stage Right founder, Carolyn Wong, with the good news that the newly installed balcony spotlights have been repositioned for safety to the rear of the balcony. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best: ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL!

A member of both The Lambs Club Inc. and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of DAVID DOW BENTLEY III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com . E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
This entry was posted in American Theatre Critics Association, AMERICANTHEATRECRITICS.ORG, ATCA, Broadway, BroadwayStars.com, Crighton Theatre, Houston Chronicle online, The Courier Columns, TheLambsClub.org, ThePeoplesCritic.com and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crighton’s Pleasant “MILLIE” Avoids Near Calamity

  1. Rebhun, Herbert says:

    Hi Dow

    Good review. Sorry to read about the injury to Debbie glad she is OK—you are smart to have moved your seats.
    Played tennis on Tuesday—good turnout thought you would have been there.

    Herb

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