THEATRE REVIEW: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Landor Theatre

running until 13 September. Click here for more information.

The cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie (c) Richard Davenport
The cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie (c) Richard Davenport

Twelve years since its West End triumph, Thoroughly Modern Millie makes a return to the capital on the fringe scene – and where else but the fringe powerhouse of musical theatre, the Landor.

I’ve been intending to get down to the Landor Theatre for a long time, and this show was a great first visit. While I knew the space is intimate, I was still surprised by the narrowness of the stage, and subsequently very impressed with the work of director Matthew Iffe and choreographer Sam Spencer Lane. The ensemble numbers are the productions’s strongest feature, with authentic 20’s choreography tightly performed with precision and flamboyance. The classic songs such as ‘Not For The Life Of Me, ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and ‘Forget About The Boy’ are delivered with feel-good freshness. However, with cast pared down to 12, some of the smaller numbers feel adrift and a little rougher around the edges – particularly guilty of this are ‘Only In New York’ and ‘Long As I’m Here With You’ performed by Muzzy (Chipo Kureya), which need tightening up and more conviction.

Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Miss Dorothy and Alex Codd as Ching Ho (c) Richard Davenport
Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Miss Dorothy and Alex Codd as Ching Ho (c) Richard Davenport

As heroine Millie Dillmount, Francesca Lara Gordon brings the right balance of sass and vulnerability to the role, with consistently strong vocals throughout. She is more than matched by Sarah-Marie Maxwell as Miss Dorothy, whose sweet soprano soars; Maxwell manages to keep the character likeable by imbuing it with enough comedy, particularly in the tongue-in-cheek romantic duet with Trevor Grayden (Samuel Harris), ‘Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life’. Elsewhere Ben Stacey carries the role of Jimmy with easy charm, while Steph Parry camps it up as the villainous Mrs Meers. Many characters multi-role with aplomb, but a special mention must go to Christina Meehan for her transformation into the hilarious Miss Flannery.

The plot is of course utterly farcical, which can create riotous comedy but needs to be handled carefully. On the whole, this production of Millie needs more zany energy to work successfully. The whole thing feels a little safe, and lights up the stage but doesn’t set it on fire. It is lively and on the whole polished, but I couldn’t help wishing the energy and attack could be ratcheted up a notch. The final scenes (before the musical finale kicks in) fail to provide a climax to the show, rushing through the last-minute revelations at unnecessary speed, so the show fizzles at the last.

It would be brilliant to see this musical on a big scale in the West End, as it has so much to offer in comedy, charm and big razzle-dazzle numbers. Until then, the Landor is offering a stylish and high-spirited new production that, despite one or two hiccups, has an infectious joy and charm that will get you smiling and tapping your toes.

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