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Theatre / Art
Thoroughly Delightful
‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ opens at the OCP
By David Williams

Jill Anderson, that toothy chanteuse with the adorable overbite and bobbed hair, is sure to sing and dance her way into your heart as the Omaha Community Playhouse opens a new main stage season with “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” A veritable cornucopia of sight and sound, “Millie” is a jazz age frolic that will be a sure-fire hit for the venerable stage at 69th and Cass.

In the course of writing reviews, the temptation is often great to qualify so many of my accolades with a parenthetical “as far as community theatre goes,” as in “such and such is really a fine production (as far as community theatre goes).” No such fudging is required when writing about almost any show at the Playhouse and “Millie” is no exception.

After all, the company did not become the largest community theater in the nation by offering anything less than the highest production values, the best house band, the most sumptuous sets, spot on costumes and the finest casts. Heck, the Playhouse is the sort of place where you’ll encounter fourth-row chorus girls who’ll be leading ladies in other productions around town later in the season.

Millie is that wide-eyed Kansas girl who seeks fame and fortune (and a rich husband) in the Big Apple. Instead, she gets thrown in with the guys and dolls of Glitter Gulch where weary hoofers, white slavers and seedy corner-boys lurk at every turn.

Equity actor Anderson is simply marvelous as she croons and high-steps her way to a discovery of the meaning of true love in this riotous homage to a floozy and flapper-infested Great White Way.

Seth Fox’s lush tenor is at its usual best when he plays Jimmy, the yegg with a secret. Angela Jensen-Frey’s piercing soprano will grab you by the nape of the neck when rich-girl Miss Dorothy goes slumming. Kim Jubenville will keep you in stitches when channeling Ethel Merman as the menacing Mrs. Meers, the blowsy doll and gangster moll who lulls her beauties to sleep with chloroform before loading them up on a slow boat to China.

And Tiffany White-Welchen brings the house down when the swells gather in the penthouse apartment of Muzzy Van Hossmere as this torch singer belts out a bluesy showstopper.

Jim Othuse (truly a genius) has outdone even himself this time with a set that delivers all the glitz and glamour of a neon-lit city that never sleeps.

Gaggles of gorgeous gams are everywhere to be found in memorable chorus numbers such as “The Speed Test,” where acres of typewriters form the perfect accompaniment for the staccato rat-a-tat-tat of choreographer Roxanne Nielsen’s mind-blowing tap number. And just watch as costumer Georgiann Regan uses her creations to tell the story of Millie’s increasingly sophisticated “modern-ness” as each new scene unfolds. She steps off the train in a lacey frock of brilliant yellow (perhaps a nod to Millie’s home, the Sunflower State?) but I was soon on the edge of my seat just itching to see the ever-increasing vibrancy and audaciousness of each costume change for this erstwhile farm girl.

Giving director Carl Beck all the more reason to be proud, son Ben returns to the Playhouse as one of the hilarious “coolies” who, in the cleverest of stagecraft, sing in Chinese below English “supertitles” reminiscent of those used in opera.

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