Stage

Masquerade's Millie is Thoroughly Entertaining

The set-up: Bob your hair, roll your stockings below the knee, and Charleston over to Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for a thoroughly delightful time. It's the bee's knees!

The execution: Adapted from the Academy Award-winning Ross Hunter musical (1967) that starred Julie Andrews, Carol Channing and Mary Tyler Moore, this tuneful '20s tribute, a multiple-Tony winner in 2002 including Best Musical, is the happiest of shows. Fresh from her one-horse Kansas town, "modern" Millie (Laura Gray, as fresh and winning as they come) is determined in cold-hearted New York to find a rich husband, love be damned. During her gold-digging adventures, she meets poor but refined orphan Miss Dorothy (Libby Evans), smart-alecky Jimmy (Michael J. Ross), suitable husband-to-be Mr. Graydon (Adam W. Delka), society entertainer Muzzy Van Hossmere (Kristina Sullivan) and wicked hotel proprietress Mrs. Meers (Allison Sumrall), who, on the side, runs a white slavery ring with her uncooperative servants, Ching Ho (Troy D. Menn) and Bun Foo (Eric Edward Schell). It's madcap and silly, joyous and fun, thanks to the ever-lively music, lyrics, and book from Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlon, and Richard Morris, who poke fun at '20s stereotypes and pay their respects, too.

The cast outdoes itself, dancing up a storm in Michelle Macicek and Laura Gray's exceptionally vibrant tap numbers, or just belting their songs like the troopers they are. Gray is perfectly cast as Millie, innocent in love, yet striving to be hard, with a shining Broadway voice that raises the rafters (does Zilhka have rafters? If it does, they've been raised). Ross is what one might call a real Broadway baby, smooth and polished to perfection, a trifecta of singing, acting, dancing; and Sumrall nails Mrs. Meers with her pro's timing, sure-fire comic reactions and drop-dead voice. Everyone radiates.

From speakeasy to skyscraper ledge, the simple but effective sets by Amanda McBee keep the show moving, the beaded costumes by Libby Evans are sparkly and shimmering, and maestro Dominique Royem leads a very feisty orchestra with plenty of hot sax.

The verdict: One of Masquerade's finest productions -- and that's saying something! -- Millie accomplishes what any old-fashioned musical wants to do: completely entertain. You can't stop grinning. In Broadway terms, that's real gold diggin'.

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover