The Muny’s new Executive Producer, Mike Isaacson, made his first on-stage appearance last night, and it was an auspicious one. Isaacson has mounted a very energized and entertaining show, and he had something to say in the pre-show talk that was meaningful and a very pleasant surprise. It was easy to tell from the audience reaction that Muny patrons are 100% behind this St. Louis guy who has already made his mark in theater regionally and on Broadway.
In many ways, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is practically perfect as the first show of the 2012 season. It has all the summertime revival theater elements that people enjoy: love, laughs, color, chemistry and a big, broad production scope that makes it delightfully fun and transporting. The Muny’s new scenery wall gives added color and backdrop vistas that will beautifully compliment every Muny show.
Tari Kelly has the starring role as Millie, the import from a small town in Kansas who has arrived in New York in 1922 to forge a show business career. Kelly’s Millie is the real deal. She can belt, she can dance and she has expressive, bright eyes that really pull an audience in her direction.
Beth Leavel is a scene stealer and a showstopper as the evil Mrs. Meers, the seemingly oriental owner of a small hotel catering to young, unknown actresses. Her secret agenda gives this fluffy musical a semblance of very light edge. Veteran performer Leslie Uggams as Muzzy has two big musical numbers and she is an impressive addition to this talented company.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” won the Tony award in 2002 for best musical. It has breezy choreography that will have you tapping in your seat. The entire ensemble of this “Millie” may just be the most award-winning cast to play the Muny in recent years. The magnificent Muny orchestra is right on with the changing tempos. Sure, there are a few slow moments in this musical’s book, and the show could use a truly memorable love ballad. But that said, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” remains a vivid celebration of what makes venerable Broadway musicals so endearing. And nowhere does all that come through better than at The Muny, under the stars and the spell of the most beautiful outdoor theater in the world.