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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Millie: A thoroughly enjoyable show

Published: April 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

This past weekend Hillel Theatre Group produced Thoroughly Modern Millie to great success. Playing to a packed house, the cast of Millie generated great laughs and joy through buoyant performances.

The story follows the traditional rags-to-riches story of Millie Dillmount who arrives in New York full of vim and vigor but must overcome a series of failures to find her true love and big payday. Along the way the audience is treated to a series of failed romances and a dastardly kidnapping plot.

The romantic lead performers, Missy Mlotek (09) and Jacob Lazar (09) were adequate, but the true stand-outs emerged from the character actors. Rachel Kurnos (08) Miss Dorothy Brown was a bundle of giggles and awkward lust. As Ms. Flannery, Allie Winer (08) successfully portrayed the stern, cantankerous secretary and then surprised the audience with a joyous tap solo. Possessing the best voice in the cast, Gavi Youngs (09) songs soared and were the musical highlight of the night.

Additionally, while only in the ensemble, Rachel Golds (08) facial expressions and occasional interjections brought even more humor to the performance and separated her from the crowd.
With the strong cast, three actors completely stole the show. Scott Moerdlers (08) adorably love-struck Ching Ho brought great delight whenever he was onstage. His face lit up, as well as the audiences, as he achingly pined for Miss Dorothy. As Millies boss Trever Graydon, Avram Mloteks (09) Sideshow Bob-like delivery, complete confidence in his ridiculous decisions, and knack for timing created one of the funniest characters to grace the Shapiro stage. His sweet mystery of life number with Kurnos was the highlight of the night. The biggest star of the performance, however, was Yael Mazor (08) who bounced between a servile Chinese landlord and her true character, a conniving failed actress with illusions of grandeur. Mazor hit every comic moment with great aplomb, especially when breaking into intense monologues, and carried her songs with gusto.

In the background of the action rose an abstraction of the New York City skyline as part of the numerous set pieces designed by Alex Friedman (09) and built by Mike Martin (aka Masta Fly 09). The set construction must have been a Herculean effort as numerous full sets filled the stage thanks mainly to an excellent use of the theatres fly system. Friedmans design took the audience from the gritty wallpapered hallway of the boarding house to a claustrophobic Chinese Laundromat to a 20th story building ledge complete with the towers emblem. Brittany Erlichs (07) costume design was full of color, feathers and fringe and was carried out beautifully by Erlich and seamstress extraordinaire Naomi Adland to evoke a more glamorous far-off period.

The biggest flaw in the production was in the choreography. It seemed repetitive and unimaginative with very little interesting spacing. When the ensemble was onstage in a dance number, the members were all doing the same moves at the same time. This created somewhat of a blob. The reviewer would have liked the creation of better stage pictures and perhaps featuring some dancers. Another little thing that stuck with the reviewer had nothing to do with the production, but merely with the way the script ends the play by validating the love with money. That true love is only worthwhile if it comes with millions of dollars is quite disturbing.

Ultimately, the love and money point is glossed over and it can be glossed over because the show is just so gosh darn fun. Director Jason Fenster (08) should be very proud of his initial foray into the world of directing. He, his cast and crew have produced not only the best open-cast musical this director has ever seen, but one of the best musicals in the last four years.