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Thoroughly Modern Millie

Youth theatre can sometimes make even the hardened reviewer’s heart sink. However, RicNic is very different. RicNic is a charitable organisation with the purpose of producing full scale productions where every member of the company, from those onstage, backstage, in the pit and in the production team, are aged between 16 and 21.

Watching the talented company, it is very easy to forget how young they actually are!

The musical version of Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 film of the same name, which starred Julie Andrews. Set in the roaring Twenties, the show follows Millie Dillmount, a small town girl with a big time goal to find herself a wealthy husband.

Things start to go wrong almost immediately when she is mugged and left stranded in New York without any money or anywhere to stay. Following the advice of a paperclip salesman, Jimmy, she finds a room at a rundown hotel, run by a very suspicious Mrs Meers and her Chinese workers, and it is there that she meets her new best friend Dorothy.

Soon Millie finds employment as a stenographer for businessman Trevor Graydon, and she sets out to impress him with more than just her typing skills, but he doesn’t seem to notice her.

The paperclip salesman keeps appearing in her life, and soon Millie is questioning her motives for finding Mr Rich, whilst back at the hotel, Dorothy is at risk of being kidnapped to be sold in a scam run by Mrs Meers.

This was a nice production and the whole team had clearly worked very hard over the last month to bring the show to the stage. The Choreography by Ali Shepherd, assisted by Zaida Davison, was full of lovely ‘20s style moves and tap routines.  Overall the company were beautifully together in their movements, although not everyone was looking 100% confident of the routines.

The band, led by Musical Director Connor Lyster, were well rehearsed and produced a delightful brassy sound which never seemed to overpower the singing. That said, there were a few technical challenges with microphones, but the technical team did their best to cope; at one point the mike of the actor playing Trevor Graydon, Jack Shannon, was completely dislodged and dangling down his back – yet he could still be heard.

Beth Williams gave a formidable performance as Mille, with a significant proportion of the script to learn. Her vocals were mostly crisp and clear and her dancing polished. Harry James-Taylor portrayed Jimmy Smith with warmth and cheekiness. Rebecca Woodhead’s performance as Miss Dorothy captured the sweetness of the character with a strong singing voice. Whilst it would be lovely to mention each member of the cast, it sadly isn’t possible; however, often overlooked, the chorus girls shone in this production – always smiling, clearly enjoying themselves on stage, and giving 100% to their ensemble roles.

My biggest criticism was backed up by overhearing a lady talking during the interval: “It is very good, but I just can’t hear what they are saying.” I suspect it wasn’t not being able to hear, but more a question of not hearing clearly enough. A performance can sound very professional just by having excellent diction, and this does need some work, particularly when American accents are being used.

The whole company must be applauded for what they have achieved given their age, experience, and short time period. I’m certain the rest of the run will get better and better.

Thoroughly Modern Mille plays nightly at the Theatre Royal Winchester until Saturday 31 August.