There was a tangible buzz in the air at the Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock last night, as the opening night audiences - some dressed to impress in 1920s costume - took their seats for Aldridge Musical Comedy Society’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and they were not to be disappointed. AMCS have tackled the challenges of this show head-on and created a charming production with strong performances throughout.
Despite winning numerous awards and garnering great critical acclaim when the show premiered on Broadway 14 years ago, this rags-to-riches story of a young hopeful pursuing the American dream in New York still remains largely unknown to amateur audiences. The music is catchy but very little (other than the title number) has made its way out of the confines of the show to be instantly recognisable or to have the audience humming as they leave. The plot too is a little threadbare in places, with few surprises to keep the audiences guessing. Overall, the show lacks substance in the writing to turn it into a long-running hit and so it relies on the commitment to performance to carry it along successfully. This was very much in evidence across the board in AMCS’ production.
From the exuberant conducting of Musical Director Mark Bayliss, keeping an excellent band in fine energy and achieving just the right sound balance for the space, to the simple but effective choreography by Sarah Hemming, and the understated detail of the costume design (Sarah Carter), the commitment and hard work from the production team was easy to see. Andy Poulton’s staging is uncomplicated, making good use of the set in the confines of the small venue and his casting is just right with every single cast member suiting their roles well. All this provides a stable platform for the comparatively small cast to tell their story.
Chloe Hancox and Danny Teitge are triple-threat delights in the roles of Millie and Jimmy; each with excellent voices, a natural acting ability and an energy that carries the whole show along. Together they have a great chemistry on stage which brings light and shade to the story, while each shine in their individual solo numbers. They are well supported by Mark Nicholls (Trevor Graydon) and Hattie Sketchley-Bates (Miss Dorothy), both handling the almost cringe-worthy comedy scenes with assurance and poise. After an opening scene where lines were very rushed and difficult to understand, Kerry Flint settles well into the role of the villainous Mrs Meers, excelling particularly in the switch between her true character and alter-ego.
A special mention too for Linda Bloxham as Muzzy Van Hossmere, who managed to turn a role that can sometimes get a little lost in this production into the memorable performance of the night. Her vocals on both numbers were perfect.
A few lighting and projection issues on opening night sadly left some of the comedy scenes slightly missing the mark but hopefully this will improve over the rest of the run. This is a minor issue in what is overall a pleasant, slick and well-executed production.
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