Presented by The Boston Conservatory Theater Ensemble
Directed by Michael Susko; Music Directed by Steven Ladd Jones
Review by Nicola McEldowney (reviewed 3/8/2013)
(Boston) Occasionally, a performance comes along that reminds you what a certain genre is all about – be that genre Greek tragedy, or Renaissance lute songs, or shadow puppetry. For me, the Boston Conservatory’s Thoroughly Modern Millie is one of these performances. Helmed by director Michael Susko and music director Steven Ladd Jones, this production encapsulates the heart and soul of American musical theatre at its most energized, polished and professional. All the more remarkable, it is performed by students.
The young cast of the Boston Conservatory’s production is indeed so capable, so outstanding, that I was compelled to ask a few nearby individuals “in the know” (read: immensely and rightly proud parents) if these were truly kids in their late teens/early twenties, or rather thirty- and forty-something NYC professionals in disguise. But sure enough, these performers were the genuine article. And they were, indeed, thoroughly marvelous.
The cast, as a whole, feeds off of one another’s energy, suffusing the performance with enought mojo for a U.S. Olympic team. Jillian Butler, originally the understudy for the lead, came to the role of Millie Dillmount at the last minute. She owned it, embodying her role with such precision, charisma and power that you had to wonder at what the original Millie must have been like. Butler’s opening number, the dazzling “Not For the Life of Me,” set the tone for the excellence that was to follow; her “Gimmie Gimmie” was every bit the high-octane show-stopper it needed to be. While all her co-stars were astounding, special mention must go to comedic powerhouse Malari Martin as villainous Mrs. Meers, and to force-to-be-reckoned-with Brittany Walters as Muzzy Van Hossmere. Both ladies brought down the house and rightly so. Additionally, MiMi Scardulla as antagonist-turned-ally Miss Flannery did a gangbusters job of joining Butler in leading the thoroughly amazing “Forget About The Boy,” which is still stuck in my head.
Special kudos go to director Susko for allowing quirky personalities to shine through in quirky portrayals, rather than trying to somehow homogenize the characters. Thanks to his smart choices and the cast’s first-rate performances, this was truly a Millie to treasure. I’m not going to forget it anytime soon – “not for the life of me.”