Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Inge’

Well, that was fun! I was underwhelmed by the 2003 West End production with Amanda Holden and Maureen Lipman; it was all a bit too slick, going through the motions. That is the last thing you could say about this lovely fringe revival – it sparkles and fizzes and lifts you up as you smile your way through two hours. I loved it.

It’s another screen-to-stage story. This one took 35 years to get from film to Broadway, only another year to cross the Atlantic, but 12 years for this first revival. I never thought it was particularly good material for a musical, but this small-scale production has changed my mind. Millie arrives in New York City in the roaring 20’s intent on bagging a rich husband. Reality bites and she finds herself in Mrs Meers ‘hotel’ with a lot of other young hopefuls. Mrs Meers provides more than mere (sorry!) accommodation as she’s involved in the white slave trade, shipping girls East with the help of her Chinese collaborators. Millie has her sights on her boss Trevor but her heart belongs to salesman Jimmy. Her newly arrived room-mate Dorothy gets the attentions of both Trevor and Jimmy, much to the consternation of Millie, but it all ends happily. Obviously.

Andrew Riley’s simple set leaves plenty of room (well, just about enough) for Sam Spencer Lane’s terrific choreography and his costumes are a treat. For a newcomer to musical theatre, Matthew Iliffe’s direction is masterly. Chris Guard’s 5-piece band (a bit odd, looking away from the stage and audience) played with gusto but never drowned out the unamplified vocals. Francesca Lara Gordon handled the triple demands of acting, dancing and singing Millie brilliantly, with particularly fine vocals. Both of her leading men – Ben Stacey as Jimmy and Samuel Harris as Trevor – and co-lead Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Dorothy shone in their roles. Steph Parry was an absolute hoot as Mrs Meers, getting many more laughs than her lines contained with her Chinese accent, facial expressions and postures. Alex Codd and Anthony Starr pulled off the task of speaking in Chinese (with surtitles!) superbly and there’s a lovely cameo from Christina Meehan as Trevor’s battleaxe secretary Peg. Charlie Johnson and Chipo Kureya were great in all of their roles. George Hinson and Thomas Inge made up this small but faultless young ensemble.

Whatever you think of the show, and some have questioned whether its worthy of revival, you will love this fresh, energetic, tongue-in-cheek, witty production by a new breed of musical theatre professionals, as promising as any I’ve ever seen. The spontaneous standing ovation said it all.

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