In 1967 the film Thoroughly Modern Millie was released, starring Julie Andrews. It is most memorable for the title number and for the amusement value of watching the normally serious actor James Fox as romantic lead and 'hoofer'. Other than that it was a particularly dull production that feels twice its running length.
Returning to the present day and a new version has been produced for the Broadway stage. Most of the music from the film has been jettisoned and replaced with a cheerful and sprightly new score by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, plus other borrowings.
The plot is as silly as is usual with these sorts of show. In 1922 Millie Dillmount goes to Manhattan from Kansas with a plan to get a job and marry the boss. She stays in a boarding house with other young ladies including Miss Dorothy Brown. Unbeknownst to her Mrs. Meers, the owner of the boarding house, is actually running a white slavery ring. Millie's plans are put into doubt when she meets and, reluctantly, finds herself falling in love with the unreliable Jimmy Smith.
So, with that over with, what about the recording in hand?
The overall quality of the recording is excellent. The first thing that struck me from the overture onwards is that the orchestration is first class: clear and crisp and used well for the 1920s-style score. The songs are on the whole well-written and in style sit somewhere between Anything Goes and The Boy Friend.
The singing abilities of the cast are without exception very good. Sutton Foster as Millie is particularly impressive. She has a strong 'belter' voice that is perfect for this sort of score. From the memorable title song, to the tongue-twisting 'Speed Test' (which uses the tune and structure of 'My Eyes are Fully Open' from Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore) to the love song 'Jimmy' she never slips. I notice that the cast list says 'introducing Sutton Foster'. If this is truly her first lead role, she is definitely a talent to watch.
Gavin Creel as Jimmy has a pleasant, musical tenor and particularly shines in his signature song, the sardonic 'What Do I Need with Love?'.
Angela Christian as Miss Dorothy is perhaps the weakest link in the principal cast. There is nothing actually wrong with her vocal performance, but it comes across as a little insecure, particularly when compared with the strength of Foster.
Sheryl Lee Ralph has a lounge singer voice, which perfectly suits her role as chanteuse Muzzy Van Hossmere, while Marc Kudisch, as Trevor Graydon, Millie's boss, is a fine, if unexceptional, bass baritone.
Finally of the principal cast, Harriet Harris as the villain Mrs. Meers sings 'They Don't Know', an enjoyable expository song, with great style.
If the score has one fault it is one that seems to be quite common in musical theatre: the best music is in the first act. After the interval there is at least one too many ballads and the show loses some of its momentum.
Overall this is an extremely entertaining, well-sung and well-orchestrated production which will bring pleasure to any lover of the musical theatre. After listening to this a few times I booked tickets to go and see the newly-opened London Production. There can be no stronger recommendation than that!