Small town girl makes modern in Manhattan

by Janet Grant
Tri-City Voice – August 1, 2006

It’s an ageless story _ small town girl escapes to the big city to find adventure and marry wealth. Along the way she encounters intrigue, zany characters, and jazz! Well at least it’s ageless in the beautiful hillside confines of the Ohlone College Amphitheatre in StarStruck Theatre’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

In the Bay Area premiere of this 2002 Tony award winning musical comedy, director Lori Stokes has offered us a real winner. Lively and oftentimes incredible dance numbers from the toe-tapping typing number to the speakeasy liquor induced rags were expertly choreographed by Michael Jenkinson. Along with the neon bright costumes and simple but effective stage set with a looming Art Deco New York skyline, this musical is not only a feast for the senses but  kick-up-your-heels, laugh-out-loud entertainment in the old fashioned Broadway style.

Set in 1922, the story revolves around the adventures of Millie Dillmount, who travels to New York City determined to get a job as a stenographer in order to marry her wealthy boss. Shedding her Kansas duds for the modern look of a “flapper,” she takes a room at the Priscilla Hotel for aspiring actresses, unaware that it is a front for a white slave ring. Along the way, she finds herself involved with Jimmy Smith, an apparently poor but charming ne’er-do-well, Miss Dorothy Brown, a genteel aspiring actress, Mr. Trevor Graydon, her no-nonsense boss, and Muzzy van Hossmere, a madcap heiress with a zest for the high life.

Courtney Stokes as Millie Dillmount brings a spunky attitude and a belting voice to her role. With her wonderful comedic timing, Ms. Stokes possesses a worldliness that belies that of her small town alter ego.

Stokes is supported by a talented and energetic young cast. Kyle Padilla plays a somewhat rakish but endearing Jimmy Smith, and Evan Boomer is laughingly effective as straight and narrow Trevor Graydon. Natalie Hawkins as Miss Dorothy Brown offers us a sweet, and naive young woman who we would just love to either hug, or smack on the side of the head. And the sinister Mrs. Meers played by Aimee Collins, is actually kind of likeable once we discover that she is not really Chinese with a stereotyped accent, but a disgruntled American actress with a really nasty side business. Melissa Modifer plays an engaging heiress who, like Stokes, can belt out her songs with style.

Bun Foo (Kenta Naoi) and Ching Ho (Bryant Soong) are the real scene stealers however, as Mrs. Meers’ real Chinese henchmen. They have great material from their “Not for the Life of Me,” which is the same song as Millie’s about small town life but in Mandarin with English subtitles, or “Muqin” the hilarious version of “Mammy” they sing in their native language – an ode of longing for their mother still in China.

The wonderful musical score directed by music director Nancy Godfrey is absolutely delightful with fun songs and even some surprises like a Gilbert and Sullivanesque “The Speed Test,” and a jazzy version of Tchaikovsky’s, “Nutcracker Suite.”

Will Millie find true love? Will the villainous Mrs. Meers be defeated? Will you ever think of the Roaring 20s the same again? Come and see for yourself in StarStruck’s production of a thoroughly enjoyable Millie.

Performance dates:
Fridays: Aug. 4, Aug. 11
Saturdays: Aug. 5 and 12
Thursday, Aug. 10

Performances start at 8 p.m.
Ohlone College Outdoor Amphitheatre
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont

Ticket Prices are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, students/youth. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (510) 659-1319 or online at