Joe Tannalfo, a junior at Londonderry High School, readily admitted that his horizons have been broadened by his current role with the LHS Drama Club. “I didn’t know how they dressed in the 1920s, and this broadened my knowledge,” he said. “It was a really interesting culture, with a lot of different kinds of people you don’t see today.” But there were a lot of restrictions too, Tannalfo mused, and, he said with a smile, “I would miss today’s technology.”
The Drama Club invites the community to take a trip back to the 1920s with them in their spring musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” While the clothes and trinkets have changed, the message of looking for love in the wrong, and right, places is sure to resonate with today’s audiences.
Drama director Val Nelson said she chose this piece partly because of its value in casting. “We can use students in a variety of different ways,” she said. The play has 27 characters on stage, principals, secondary characters and chorus members, another 10 to 15 on crew, and 12 in the orchestra pit,, she said.
Nelson, who also does the choreography, said the students are “loving the dancing.” The musical has two big tap numbers and the dancing is very stylized, she said.
Samantha Honeywell, a senior, plays Millie. She’s been acting, singing and dancing since she was 8 and through all four years of high school, she said during a rehearsal break. “My favorite part of this show is the tap dancing,” she said. It’s a learning curve for Honeywell, who had never “tapped” before last year’s performance in “Shrek,” but she loves the challenge, she said.
“This is a really good story,” she said of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” “The moral is that you should not marry for money, but for love. It’s all about love and I’m a romantic.”
Her character of Millie is “kind of bipolar,” Honeywell said, adding, “But she has a good heart.”
Honeywell said she liked how everything was cheaper in the 1920s, though it was also more difficult to find jobs. “And I love the costumes, they are so cool,” she said of her beaded flapper dresses.
Nelson said most of the costumes for this piece have been handmade.
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” is a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori, lyrics by Dick Scanlan, and book by Scanlan and Richard Morris. The play tells the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to New York City to find a rich husband. Women were just entering the workforce. “Millie” snags a job as a stenographer and sets her sights on her wealthy boss, though she really loves Jimmy Smith. Complications arise when she moves into a women’s residence that snatches young women and propels them into white slavery.
In the opening scene, Honeywell as Millie stands in the center of what will become an urban cityscape as she singsof memorizing subway maps and her hometown, where “nothing is over three stories high.” She has a ticket home in her pocket, but sings about “burning the bridges” and making her life in New York. “I want more than just a one-light town, where the light is always red,” Honeywell sings.
When her purse is snatched Millie tries to catch up to the thief and falls over an irate Jimmy, who lectures her on the perils of city living. “New York is great, but the cost of living is high — and I don’t mean money,” he tells the na ve young woman. They bicker and he goes his way, she goes hers to the Hotel Priscilla. “Wire your parents for the train fare, they’ll be glad to send it,” is Jimmy’s parting shot.
She meets her landlady, the sinister Mrs. Beers, played by Danika Dixon, and she barters for a room until Dorothy Brown comes on the scene. Dorothy, a wealthy woman wanting to “See How the Other Half Lives,” agrees, to share and pay for Millie’s room until Millie gets on her feet. Millie does, securing a stenographer’s position at Sincere Trust with Trevor Graydon III as her boss. But as girls disappear from the hotel, she’s called upon to solve the mystery, while also looking into her own heart.
Though Millie is looking for a hard-driving executive to set her up for life, she realizes that you can’t put a price tag on love.
The show goes up in the Derry Opera House Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 7, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, April 8, at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, adults and $10, seniors and staff. For more information, call the school at 432-6941.