'Millie' musical set to take stage

On May 23, the theater department at Santa Monica College will preview their interpretation of the Tony Award-winning comedic musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie," directed by theater professor Janie Jones.

Set in 1922, the show features a girl from Kansas named Millie, who has just arrived in New York City. Determined to be "modern" during the times when women started to enter the workforce, she decides to become independent, find a job and marry a rich man.

But things turn out differently for Millie once she books a room in the Priscilla Hotel and meets the carefree Jimmy. Soon, she finds herself involved in a criminal adventure and a complicated love rectangle.

The original story and screenplay was written by Richard Morris. He also collaborated on the book with Dick Scanlan, who wrote the lyrics for the music, which was composed by Jeanie Tesori. The musical is based on the 1967 film of the same name.

Jones says the excitement and energy that happened in the1920s is similar to the passion, flair and youth on campus today, which is reflected in the play.

The musical showcases many dance numbers, including jazz and tap, and is overall "a toe-tapping musical," says Autumn Powers, who plays the role of Miss Dorothy Brown.

“As an audience member, I would be most excited about the dance numbers," says Powers. "When you go to a show like this, you come to see the dance numbers.”

Allisen Beall, who plays the lead Millie, says the costumes designed by Kristen Rudlidge make the difference.

"We are all good actors, but the costumes really make the show for me," she says. "They make or break the show."

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" sets itself apart from the other musicals and shows that the theater department has been performing this semester, says Powers.

"All the [other plays] this semester have been a little bit darker than Millie," says Powers. "This is a turn for the good. It's happy. You'll go outside the theater and humming along with the music because it's so catchy. And it's a good time all around for everyone, whether you are 2 years old or 150."

Powers also says the show offers fun and a story with a surprising outcome, but it also conveys a message that can be relevant to everyone who pursues a dream.

"Millie and the majority of the characters are pushing for what they want and what they need," she says. "And I think that's what we are doing at SMC. The message is, follow your heart, don't follow your head. If you follow your heart, it is leading you somewhere, in a direction that you obviously want to go and hopefully, will lead you to the right place."

Beall says there are multiple themes in the story. One that is particularly dominant for her is women's independence and gender equality.

"It's very empowering, especially for women," she says. "This was women in the 1920's and they were out, doing what they wanted to do. And this is relevant now. Women are still having issues with being equal with men. The message is really 'do what you want to do and let nobody stop you just because of who you are.'"

The show will be performed from May 23 to June 2. Tickets are available online, through phone or at the department office. For more information, contact the SMC theater department or go online on www.smc.edu/theatre.