Set in New York City during the roaring ‘20s, the Ryerson Musical Theatre Company’s (RMTC) performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie is an absolute thrill.
Directed by Robyn Hoja, the play is filled with live, catchy music, vibrant characters, love triangles, a wacky villain, and of course — flappers. It’s an outright adventure.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is the first play of RMTC’s inaugural musical theatre season. I viewed the play on night two of the show.
The play follows the story of Millie Dillmount, played by Braelyn Guppy – a Kansas native who’s on a journey to finding a job and a rich husband. Along the way, she makes new friends, meets a bizarre and crazy hotel owner, and eventually falls in love.
With plot twists and plenty of comedic relief, the play gets a solid five stars in our books, on top of a standing ovation from the audience.
What makes the show even more impressive is that members of the RMTC and show performers aren’t necessarily theatre students, since the RMTC is open to students of all programs. All the performers offer the proverbial triple threats. They sang powerfully, they were in step with choreography and the acting was convincing.
With a cast of such diverse backgrounds and talents, everyone brought something unique to the stage. The audience seemed to enjoy the upbeat vibe of the performance too with audible giggles and smiles all around.
The audience liked the show, but it was still slightly problematic.
The pivotal character of Mrs. Meers, played by Dayna Loeper, could be seen by many as discriminatory. The character was shocking evidence that yellow-face, the act of using theatrical makeup on non-Asian performers to represent a East Asian person, still exists.
The character is written in the play as a white woman in yellow-face as a disguise. She’s an exaggerated caricature that plays up on East Asian stereotypes, while being played by a white woman. Even though the play still featured characters played by actors of the same descent, it was a little bit jolting to see Ryerson put on a show with a character like this, even though it’s part of the original story line that she uses this ethnicity as a disguise.
The apparent majority of the audience didn’t seem to mind since loud roars of laughter echoed throughout the theatre every time she told a joke.
If you can handle that sort of theatrical cliche, the show has a bit of everything and is performed in spectacular fashion.
The show runs through today, Feb. 27, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.