“Thoroughly Modern Millie” began its life as a movie in 1967, but it wasn’t until 2002 when it hit the stage as a Broadway production.
Now, the timeless tale of a country girl setting out in the big city will be presented by the Boise State Theater Arts Department and the Music Department. The plot’s timelessness is what drew theater director and director of the show Robert Klausch, Ph.D to the play.
“I just love the fact that this show represents so many different periods of our 20th and now 21st century culture,” Klausch said. “It comes from the 1960s, it depicts an America in the 1920s when young people, young women in particular, because that’s who it focuses on, had many of the same kinds of concerns, dreams, ambitions and struggles as they were having in the 1960s. And now you translate that whole thing to the 2000s where you take a look at some of these things and you say ‘wait a minute, I don’t know if things have changed all that much.’”
The musical tells the story of a young woman, Millie Dillmount, who moves to New York City to become a modern, successful woman, which primarily means marrying a very rich man, preferably her boss.
The New York of the 1920s is unlike any other, with women entering the workforce at unseen numbers and jazz in the air.
Tess Gregg, a senior theater arts major, plays Millie in the upcoming production, a role she said she has always wanted to play.
In contrast, leading man Alaggio Laurino, a junior art history and fine arts major, had to be convinced.
“You know, the theater snob in me was resistant to the idea at first, but then I quickly warmed up to it,” he said. “And, you know, my passion is musical theater. It’s now, because theater is not my major, my hobby and my past-time. My favorite way to spend my free time is in a rehearsal.”
Whatever Laurino may have thought previous to joining the production has been overwritten, though.
“At face value, the show might be kind of confusing, but what I think is actually really great about ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ is that is addresses issues of race and sexism in a very ironic and satirical way,” he said.
Through the course of the play, Millie has to deal with a villainous landlady who sells the women who inhabit her hotel to China as part of a slavery ring.
“It’s a hotel for young actresses, so it’s a hotel for young women,” Klausch said. “Then this woman who owns the hotel kidnaps the young women, those who have no family, no relatives, and she sends them to her accomplice who sends the girls to China where they become, well it’s pretty obvious what they would become over there. But that element of the story is told with humor, with ridiculousness.”
Even beyond the compelling story of the show, the technical elements really help up the caliber.
Laurino noted his favorite part of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was, “During tap numbers when all the girls are in perfect sync, it’s just cool to watch.”
Klausch also made a point to mention the dance numbers of the show.
“The music is fantastic, and the dancing is fantastic,” he said. “It’s got jazz dance, it’s got tap dance. It’s just a very exciting time in the theater for people to see it.”
The show is truly modern, and showcases dancing talents, as well as providing many roles for women.
“Ultimately, the reason we’re doing it is because it is a really marvelous musical and vehicle for our students, because it has a great number of women’s roles,” Klausch said. “The lead of the show is a woman, one of the secondary principal leads is a woman. So it’s a great vehicle for our students to show off their talents and I think we really have the students this year to do that.”
According to Gregg, there are reasons to go see this production beyond simply supporting the Boise State arts program.
“It’s a really entertaining show,” Gregg said. “Even if you have someone who doesn’t normally support the arts by going to shows frequently, or doesn’t enjoy musicals, you’ll enjoy this one. It’s so good.”
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” will show Thursday, March 14 through Sunday, March 17.