Tap dancing, 1920s glam, musical numbers, and comedy is coming to Jenkins Theatre this month with “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. After seven weeks of rehearsal, the UW-Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance will debut their musical performance mid-November.
The musical is about a small town girl named Millie Dillmount who moves to New York City with high hopes of marrying a rich man. Set in the 1920s, when women were just entering the workforce, Millie becomes enraptured by the flapper lifestyle. The turning point comes about when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a slavery ring in China.
“The show has great “audience appeal” because of its humor, jazz music, 1920s costuming and tap dancing–to name a few elements. You can’t help but walk away from this performance without having laughed a lot. You’ll have a huge smile on your face!,” said Tim Howard, director and coordinator of BFA Musical Theatre.
As someone who has done over 100 shows himself, whether acting or directing, Howard describes the biggest struggle as “the size of the group and navigating 35 actors on stage at once… between all the cast, band and designers, there are over 100 faculty and students directly involved in getting this show running.”
This group has been rehearsing five times a week, four hours each time. By attempting to capture traditional make-up, manage a band on stage, and create the 1920s flapper costumes, this epic love story requires much preparation. However, this love story isn’t so hard for some.
“The fact that my actual girlfriend and I get to play the romantic leads is awesome! In addition to a longstanding relationship we’ve also worked together a number of times before onstage, so it just makes the process that much more comfortable for both of us,” said John Ford-Dunker, the actor who plays Jimmy Smith.
Because of his tendency to explore the darker sides of musical theatre, this character was a little more difficult for Ford-Dunker to create.
“It has been a bit of a challenge to get the character to the sort of stylized level of Jimmy Smith’s fast, smooth ‘everything all the time’ attitude that was rampant in the 1920s,” Ford-Dunker said. “But the thing I love about this musical is that there’s never a dull moment. You will either be clapping, laughing, cheering, or booing at any given moment.”
With the demanding rehearsal schedule and performances looming in the near future, Ford-Dunker is pleased with the chemistry the cast has been able to maintain.
“We’ve worked hard but have laughed a lot in rehearsal. That was my favorite part of the whole production process, the laughing,” said Howard.