THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (at Stoneham Theatre through May 12th) is a cheeky send-up of those wacky movie musicals from the roaring ‘20s. You know, a sappy love story with a madcap speakeasy scene ending in a raid and a jail full of flappers—not to mention the skyscraper with a window ledge and a tap number right on that six inch slab of concrete. In short, MILLIE feels ever so authentic, even though the movie version came out in 1967 and the stage version in 2002! The surprise is that the Tony winning (Richard Morris/Dick Scanlan/Jeanine Tesori) musical works both as a spoof and a tribute at the same time.
If you’re going to make fun of that era, you might as well send up the send-up, which is what director Ilyse Robbins and company do, by casting an actor to play the femme fatale—and not just any actor, but funnyman Robert Saoud. He’s hilarious as the brains behind a white slavery ring, busy kidnapping unsuspecting chorines with no relatives to report them missing. (Mind you, women and children today are sold into slavery but this musical is high camp and has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. It’s such a piece of fluff that it’s not even offensive when Saoud’s Mrs. Meers affects a horrendous Chinese accent. You’ll understand when you learn the whole plot.)
Ephie Aardema is delightful as the spunky, undaunted Millie, mugged her very first day in NYC—and Aardema is no slouch in the comedy department, either. She blithely slides off her chair and under her typewriter with the greatest of ease in search of laughs and she finds them galore. Andrew Giordano, too, scores with the silliness around his love-at-first-sight number (a parody of the real “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life”) with the likewise thunderstruck Stephanie Granade as Millie’s best friend.
The clever songs, under Jim Rice’s crisp music direction, are endlessly entertaining (luckily, since several are repeated). When they’re not the genuine article (like the raucous Mandarin “Mammy”), they sound like the genuine article. It’s hard to believe songs like “Forget About the Boy” weren’t written back then. And Robbins has pros like Kathy St. George and Noah Zachary to put them across—and Eddie Zitka to tap them into your heart! In short Stoneham’s MILLIE is a lark and we all need a little joy nowadays, don’t we?