Thoroughly Modern Millie 2017 Tour Review

With only a distant memory of the plots skeleton, I found myself being dragged to the King’s Theatre Portsmouth last night, with my family, to endure ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’. Like a moody teenager, dressed in all black with the look of bemusement in my eyes, I took my seat in the half empty theatre and forced a smile to my face, preparing to tolerate almost three hours of overly cheerful torture…and yet, I instead found myself in awe of the spectacle in front of me.

Set in a 1920’s New York, a young, ‘modern’ by the name of Millie Dillmount escapes her life from Kansas, with hopes of marrying a rich husband in the big city. With a mind set on money as opposed to love, we see Millie battle between her head and heart as she makes the choice between her rich boss, Mr Graydon, or the attractive, yet penniless, Jimmy Smith. Away from Millie’s love life, a coinciding plot occurs, focusing on the Hotel Priscilla where Millie is staying. Run by Mrs Meers, leader of a white slavery ring within Asia, a number of occupants, all of whom are orphans, mysteriously disappear from the hotel, with Millie’s new best friend Dorothy being Mrs Meers' latest prey.

With ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ champion, Joanne Clifton, taking on the role of Millie, I expected her incredible dancing skills to steal the show, but the talents of the cast didn’t allow this to happen. Every member of the smaller than expected cast were incredible at dancing, ensuring not a single tap is out of time (with the help of the unbelievably gifted orchestra). On top of this, Clifton’s vocal were what truly left the audience speechless, her performance ensuring that everyone knew she was a true triple threat within the theatre industry. At times, her facial expressions did seem a bit much, but, thinking back to it now, it truly fit in with the style of the show, which appeared to be a caricature of itself.

Sam Barrett took to the role of Jimmy Smith, Millie’s love interest, perfectly. With a cheeky grin and overly charming arrogance, it’s safe to say that he won the hearts of many of the audience members, and his incredible vocals were flawlessly complimentary to Joanne’s, as well as being faultless within his own solos. On top of this, his questionable acrobatics in one scene with Graham MacDuff (playing Mr Graydon) were side-splittingly well timed, and truly brought the casts close connection to light.

Whilst on the topic of Graham MacDuff, it would be criminal for me to not mention his seamless performance as a drunk Mr Graydon. Following his heartbreak over Miss Dorothy, played by the shining soprano that is Katherine Glover, his characterisation was a textbook classic, and brought to me many memories of recurring Saturday nights. It was truly phenomenal, and had the audience, as well as both Joanne Clifton and Sam Barrett, in fits of laughter.

Mrs Meers was played by Lucas Rush, and was incredibly fun to watch. Fitting in with the caricature style of the show, Rush added a pantomime villain element to the role, laced with stereotypes and an overly creepy accent. This take on the role worked incredibly well with the plot, and added a whole new level to what otherwise could have been another dull and typical villain.

Although I only mention these character, through the fear that this review will otherwise become a novel, the whole cast were phenomenal. From Katherine Glover’s impeccable high notes to Catherine Mort's powerfully breath-taking tunes, everyone had nailed their roles beyond my expectations of a touring show. The small cast did mean that there were many repeat appearances, yet the characters were so clearly portrayed through great performances, it often slips your mind – with the exception of the performance of ‘Forget About the Boy’ which saw the whole of the male ensemble showing off their legs in office dresses (which was not as disturbing as I have just made it sound).      

The set was visually stunning, with a large number of clever perspectives and transitions coming in to play. The Vacancy sign at the hotel was quick to change to English subtitles when Mrs Meers henchman, played by the beyond talented Andy Yau and Damian Buhagiar, spoke and sang in Chinese. On top of this, the office scene featuring moving desks as the cast tap around the stage was very well thought through, and was a lot more effective than recorded typewriter sound effects would have been. The set was so well-used, I still find myself shocked at its simplicity of transforming a lift to a prison cell, or the simple rotation of the office windows to create the outside of the building.   

Like the set, the costumes were on point, with enough sparkle and jewels to transform anywhere to 1920’s New York. They were truly the style you would expect, and I feel incredibly sorry for the people making them, due to the number of costume changes which appeared to occur. Linking on to this, Millie’s costume and wig change at the start of the show was well timed and choreographed, and it completely blew the mind of the child sat behind me.

Overall, the show was a great night out. There has been a lot of focus on the fact that the show lasts two hours and forty-five minutes, yet I can honestly assure you that it didn’t feel that long (and this is coming from the miserable sceptic that didn’t want to see the show). Every single one of my presumptions were completely destroyed, and I hope that one day I get the pleasure to watch it again.

If you are interested in seeing the show, tickets are available here.   


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