Thoroughly Modern Millie: A modern take on a classic show

TMM - Sam Barrett as Jimmy Smith and Joanne Clifton as Millie c Darren Bell_LR

Photo: Darren Bell

Millie Dillmount arrives in New York from Kansas in the 1920s ready to experience the lifestyle of the roaring 20s. Determined to find a rich husband, Millie ends up finding love, friendship, loyalty and illegal white slavery – plenty of twists and turns to keep an audience on their toes!

Joanne Clifton plays the title role with wide-eyed innocence and vulnerability, yet maintaining a scrappy sense of determination that allows all of her interactions to seem believable and intriguing. The show, directed by Racky Plews, is entirely overacted from start to finish, a “house style” that works incredibly well. The show itself sparkles and glitters with big dance numbers and stand-out songs that allow the cast to burst onto stage with an energy rarely found in modern musical theatre shows. Sam Barrett’s cute portrayal of Jimmy Smith is utterly believable and he and Clifton bring out the very best in each other.

Graham MacDuff as Millie’s boss Mr Trevor Graydon plays a spectacular drunk, at one point even managing to make the other cast on stage laugh uncontrollably. It’s this lively, unexpected vibe that makes this show fresh and, well, modern.

The stand out performer for me is Lucas Rush as Millie’s landlady Mrs Meers. His fake accent is hilarious yet not too overdone, and he teeters across the stage with such flamboyance it’s impossible not to smile. Though Mrs Meers is undoubtedly the villain of the piece, it’s Rush’s performance that sticks with me and I find myself quoting his lines more than the song lyrics! It’s a classy, well-polished performance that I would expect to see grace the West End stage. To play such a role without slipping into a Pantomime style is incredibly difficult, yet for me Mrs Meers is bizarrely one of the more realistic, 3D characters.

The costumes add glitz and glamour to a clever yet relatively simple stage, allowing the acting and dancing to shine. Everything is slick and well-timed, with flashes of humour adding extra joy throughout. It’s truly a feel-good show that really will leave any audience member grinning as they leave the theatre.

The songs may not be sing-along hits, but that doesn’t stop this show being thoroughly memorable.

Catch it at Leeds Grand Theatre until 22nd April 2017.