Thoroughly Modern Millie

Culturally Informative or Culturally Insensitive?

Photo by Thomas Shands
The Priscilla Girls and Millie Dillmount, Evans, speak to Jimmy Smith, White.

The Cedar Ridge Theatre Department’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie was an upbeat, exciting adventure through the 1920’s.

The show follows the young Millie Dillmount, played by Sam Evans (12), as she moved to New York City from small town Kansas and falls in love with the young Jimmy Smith, played by Jack White (12).

As they explored a prohibition age New York, the cast impressed the audience with a number of impressive song and dance numbers.

One dance number, “The Nuttycracker Suite”, saw the cast dancing in a speakeasy before being caught by police.

“‘The Nuttycracker Suite’ was my favorite number to work on. It was really a focal point of the first act. Storytelling through choreography is one of Mrs. Copland’s strengths, and it is always cool to see things come together in a way that packs a punch,” White said.

While the dancing was entertaining, the singing was phenomenal. Sam Evans’ opening number, “Not for the Life of Me” showed off her vocal abilities and set the stage for the rest of the show.

“To sing a solo on such a beautiful stage is something almost indescribable,” Evans said.

Her later solo, the song “Gimme Gimme” was also a very special experience for her and the audience.

“It’s a very vulnerable moment because, with songs like ‘Gimme Gimme’, it’s just you and the audience,” Evans said .”It’s a moment when you reveal yourself through your character, and with ‘Gimme Gimme’ I personally took a moment to say thank you to everyone.”

The coordination of the featured dancers complemented the abilities of the leads. During the number ‘Speed Test’, the tap dancing of the dancers sliding around the stage while sitting in desks was a highlight that complimented the singing.

“It was really challenging at first because it was really fast and complicated and we were sitting. But once we got the hang of it it was really fun,” Anna Woodruff (11), a featured dancer, said. ”The choreography accented the sounds of the typewriters in the musical, which I thought was really cool. It easily became my favorite number in the show.”

The show didn’t go without its rough point. Mic packs fell off, and there were a few set and projection problems. But the rest of the show went fairly smoothly.

 “We are doing a live show and things are bound to go wrong, but the shows got progressively better as we went along,” Rachel Ledington (11), assistant stage manager, said.

Although the shows improved, the ethically questionable content stayed. Two Asian characters, Bun Foo and Ching Ho, were played by non-Asian actors, Myles Williams (12) and Jonathan Rooch (11).

“We took a lot of time to make sure we weren’t any more offensive then it was supposed to be. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about a culture that wasn’t my own,” Williams said.

They took the time to learn their lines in mandarin to make sure it wasn’t culturally insensitive.

“It took me three weeks to learn the language, and then we went over it with the mandarin teacher Ms.Tang,” Williams said

Another character, Mrs.Meers played by Makaila Haynes (12), had to do a thick Asian accent.

“When we first got the script, I was a little hesitant. It was a bit questionable,” Haynes said. “But once we rehearsed it, it all really came together. I was proud of what we did.”

And while some of the play was questionable, much of it was fun and uplifting. “Forget about the Boy” was an all girl number that Sam Evans loved.

“It was probably my favorite number because it was so empowering to be up there doing time-steps with such strong women,” Evans said.

This year’s musical production was grand and daring. While challenging casting norms, it still managed to entertain and inspire with its great story, acting, singing, and dancing.