Standing Ovation for Exeter’s ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’

Editor Antonia Hawken reviews Exeter’s Footlights production of ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.

Footlights music northcott theatre

The audience sat, the conductor struck up the band and a luxurious red curtain was raised as the Footlights cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie invited us to hitch our skirts and bob our hair from 25th-28th January. From the simplistic opening lines of Millie (Rosie Abraham) to the sudden influx of the chorus displaying varied, exhilarating and complex tap routines, the onlookers of the Northcott Theatre were hooked.

Set in New York, 1922 the musical follows feisty, small town girl Millie Dillmount and her move to the Big Apple in her thoroughly modern pursuit of marrying for money, not love, setting her sets on big timer Trevor Graydon (Ben Thomas). However, her adventures inevitably lead to trouble when she finds herself stalled by the charming/broke Jimmy Smith (Jordan Murphy), all the while caught up in a white slavery ring run by Mrs Meers (Bryony Twydle).

The show ran swiftly and with great enthusiasm, talent evident within every member not only displayed through song and dance, but by precise comic timing. Of particular note were performances by Stephanie Lysé, playing Muzzy a New York legend of the music circuit, Thomas, Abraham and Twydle whose impressive rendition of the accent switching Mrs Meers arguably stole the show. Within the space of a couple of hours we accompanied a lonely girl on her rise through the hardships of reality, fell in and out of love in true clichéd style and stumped the villain, all in time to find there was still ample time to enjoy a few drinks in the theatre bar before bed (not a bad way to complete a week of hill climbing).

Months of hard work and intense rehearsals since the university year began led by director Tom Carpenter, choreographer Faye Hutchinson and vocal coach Katie Thomas were justly rewarded by a standing ovation on closing night, the show itself breaking even at its opening on Wednesday, allowing for a healthy profit for the society. Special mention must be given to the wonderful eighteen member band conducted by Naomi Shaddick, as well as the professional Stage and Lighting crew, most often the unsung heroes, who brought the Big Apple to Exeter.