The sets are huge, but Millie won’t be able to dance and sing among them until she walks into the Manship Theatre.
That’s as in Millie Dillmount, the main character of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sarah Talbot plays her in Central Community Theatre’s upcoming production of the hit Broadway musical, which opens Thursday, Aug. 2.
“And we’ll only have three days to rehearse the play with the sets once we’re in the theater,” Karen Clinkingbeard said.
Clinkingbeard is co-directing the show with Kim Sullivan and Dorothy Dean. The community theater bought its sets from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which staged the production last fall.
Clinkingbeard’s daughter, Claire, is majoring in theater performance there and was a member of the cast. Claire Clinkingbeard is playing the bad guy, Mrs. Meers, in this production.
The production’s sets are too large to squeeze into the theater troupe’s small Sullivan Road studio.
So, the goal is to fully prepare every song, every step and acting in every scene.
“And when we get to the Manship Theatre, all we have to do is coordinate it with the sets,” Clinkingbeard said. “It’ll be intense, but they’ll be ready. We have the most talented cast we’ve ever had for any of our productions. They’ll definitely be ready.”
The cast ranges in age from 10 to 24. Millie fans who have seen either a Broadway or traveling Broadway production of this musical immediately will note that there are no young children in the story.
“But we’ve added them in the ensemble,” Karen Clinkingbeard said. “And it adds an extra dimension to the play.”
Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 musical film of the same title starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore. Both the film and stage play tell the story of a small-town girl who comes to New York City with hopes of marrying for money instead of love.
This was a thoroughly modern goal in 1922. Yes, women were just entering the workforce in the Roaring Twenties, and Millie delights in the flapper lifestyle. She starts working for Trevor Graydon III, the top boss at Sincere Trust Insurance Co., and is determined to marry him.
Trevor is played by Joey King in this show.
Millie also rents a room at a hotel, where she befriends the timid, pretty Miss Dorothy Brown, played by Addie Dean. And, to Millie’s dismay, it’s love at first sight for Trevor and Miss Dorothy.
Meanwhile, Millie is romanced by a handsome young salesman named Jimmy Smith, played by Grant Clinkingbeard. Millie likes Jimmy, yet he doesn’t have enough money to meet her thoroughly modern criteria.
And in the midst of it all is the hotel’s proprietress, Mrs. Meers, who is running a slavery ring in China and is targeting Miss Dorothy.
Now, there’s a twist to this story, a big twist at that. It’s found in the character of Muzzy van Hossmere, played by Christine Rittell.
“But that’s a big surprise that isn’t revealed until the end of the play,” Rittell said.
Meaning, if you want to find out what happens, you’ll have to catch one of the performances at the Manship Theatre.
The musical opened on April 18, 2002, in Broadway’s Marquis Theatre and starred Sutton Foster as Millie and Gavin Creel as Jimmy. Dixie Carter eventually stepped into the role of Mrs. Meers. The musical won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
“And this is absolutely my favorite musical, and it’s been a dream to direct,” Karen Clinkingbeard said. “The songs and dances are challenging. Each part is difficult, all the way down to the youngest ensemble member, but this cast is up to it.”
Again, Talbot is playing Millie. Audience members will remember her as the lead, Kathy Seldon, in Central Community Theatre’s 2011 production of Singin’ in the Rain.
“I saw the play on Broadway,” she said. “It’s set in 1922, but it has a 1930s feel to it, because it takes place in New York, and New York is always ahead of everyone in trends and fashion.”
Talbot is a student at Syracuse University, where she’s majoring in musical theater. Her onstage suitor, Grant Clinkingbeard, is majoring in biology at Baylor. He’s also Karen Clinkingbeard’s son and Claire Clinkingbeard’s brother.
And speaking of Claire Clinkingbeard, she’s relishing the chance to play the bad guy in this year’s production. That privilege went to Dean in 2011, when she played Lena Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain.
But now Dean is playing the meek Miss Dorothy. Dean is majoring in nursing at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. And her costar, King, also is at Southeastern. He’s majoring in communications.
Rounding out the main cast is Rittell, who teaches fifth grade at Central Intermediate School.
And all will come together to map out Millie Dillworth’s story, among the huge, Baylor University-constructed sets in the Manship Theatre.
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