Sunday, June 17, 2007

Millie is a Dilly at the Quad-City Music Guild

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" is an average old fashioned musical with high energy production numbers and tunes that are humable but unfortunately not really rememberable. It needs a full fledged star performance to keep it on track. That was provided by Julie Andrews in the first Broadway run and in last night's Quad City Music Guild production it was the turn of the vivacious and multi-talented Melissa Anderson-Clark. She has a smile that can capture your heart all the way to the back row, a fully controlled belting musical theatre voice, and the acting ability to attack the sentiment and the broad physical comedy with equal facility. She is definitely up to the challenge.

I must admit to a bit of predjudice here. Anderson-Clark is a former student of mine and a Monmouth College (Illinois) graduate. I remember Melissa most fondly as the good queen Hermione in my production of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale", but also, some years after graduation, as Nellie Forbush in the Guild production of "South Pacific."

She has matured into a major musical theatre talent and the entire Guild production glows with solid depth and consistancy throughout. The villains (especially Mary Bouljon as Mrs. Meers and Chris Thomas as Ching Ho) garnered plenty of laughs and Erika Brown-Thomas had a glorious soprano voice. The chorus churned out the Charleston flavored dances with gusto and the 1920's costumes literally exploded with flashy colors and swirling fringe.

Attempting traditional musicals in a space without mechanization and a true fly system challenges the best of designers and it is clear that more of the show's budget went into the costumes than scenery. Neither the fluidity or the glossy execution of Broadway was apparent in the settings, but the scenery did function well and was moved on and off efficiently by a well managed crew. On the auditory side of things I am not always a fan of today's over-miked musicals, but the Guild's sound system delivered all the voices crisply and kept the orchestral balance intact. Another nice directorial/technical touch was the computer generated graphics that accompanied the Chinese interchanges.

Overall it was an enjoyable summer evening fueled by several good performances and one truly outstanding one. It left me wanting to return to see the Guild's next production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" which runs weekends from July 6th through the 16th.

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