Editor's note: The writer of this story plays Jimmy Smith in the musical. Break a leg, Max!
The Millburn High School Limelight Players are excited to present "Thoroughly Modern Millie" as their annual fall musical this upcoming weekend.
The show, set in New York City in 1922, tells the story of Millie Dillmount, who comes to the city from Kansas and naively sets her sights on getting a job and marrying her boss for financial stability (a truly "thoroughly modern" aim). As the story progresses, Millie finds herself conflicted between marrying for money and finding true love.
Enter a maniacal Chinese woman (who also happens to be a white-slave-trader) and her two homesick henchmen, Prohibition-era speakeasies, a spastic secretary, upbeat and exciting tap dancing numbers, hilarious fake Asian accents, and a plot with unending twists and turns... "Millie" is truly a comedy for all ages that you don't want to miss!
The show is based on the 1967 Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore. "Millie" was a Broadway hit in 2002, winning six Tony awards, notably for the performance of renowned lead actress Sutton Foster. Ever since it closed on Broadway a few years ago, "Millie" continues to be revived throughout the country.
The musical will be performed on Friday 11/18 and Saturday 11/19 at 7:30pm in the MHS auditorium. Tickets are $10 if you call 973-376-3600 extension 455 in advance, and they are $12 at the door. Seats are reserved (and going fast), so call in with your order.
The cast members with principal roles include senior Chandler Blasini (Millie Dillmount), junior Max Sauberman (Jimmy Smith), senior Erin Hernon (Miss Dorothy Brown), junior Sanibel Schneider (Mrs. Meers), senior Evan Wolf (Mr. Trevor Graydon), junior Lindsay Maron (Muzzy Van Hossmere), senior David Wasserman (Ching Ho), sophomore Andrew Singer (Bun Foo), and senior Rebecca Okrent (Miss Flannery).
The ensemble includes juniors Christopher McHugh, Remy Novich, and Kai Rapelyea; sophomores Bradley Bunn, Caroline Casey, Alec Gevarter, Matthew Jentis, Eleanor Konrad, Cynthia Mustafa, Aanchal Sahay, Chi-Chi Schneider, and Hassan Syed; and freshmen Jillian Berkowitz, Ambika Chetal, Lucy Grebin, Daniela Kaplun, Fiona Kirkland, Brittany Stern, Catherine Tso, and Alec Wolf. Sophomore Chi-Chi Schneider is dance captain.
Auditions for "Millie" were held on the very first day of school in September, and the entire cast has been diligently rehearsing and working hard with the production staff ever since.
The musical would be nothing without the production staff, who have made this endeavor possible by coordinating all of the production and administrative elements, and by truly transforming "Millie" from the page to the stage.
The production staff includes director Paul Weinstein, musical director Rodrigo Vega, choreographer Kendall Stagaard, orchestra director and conductor Karen Conrad, stage crew advisor Matt Spatz, set designer Roger Keller, and producer Erin Smith.
The production staff assembled in May to select this year's musical. Smith thought "Millie" would be a great fit for MHS because "it's fun and exciting, has a large cast, and we know the audience will be impressed and thoroughly entertained." Weinstein said he thinks the show provides a refreshing contrast to the past few Limelight musicals: while "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" was modern and "Into the Woods" was a Sondheim fairy-tale compilation, "Millie" is "a musical in the classic style, both in its music and its storyline," he says.
Weinstein, who teaches high school English and drama in Kenilworth and has directed more than 25 shows, enjoys working with the students creatively. "I feel as if this is the first year where everything is coming together in the way that I envisioned it...this year there seems to be a greater bond between all the members of the cast and production team." Weinstein acknowledges the visible and behind-the-scenes contributions and efforts of the cast and crew, and is sorry that this is senior stage manager Rachel Okrent's final Limelight musical.
"She does so much more for the show than anyone probably realizes, from creating prop lists to making set pieces to keeping everyone organized and sane. She is totally irreplaceable, and I have no idea what we will do without her next year."
Smith, who teaches general music at Hartshorn Elementary, said she is thrilled to be able to produce her fourth Limelight musical. She is also impressed by the talented students in the cast. "They are so incredibly dedicated, and I am stunned at [their] professionalism... each of them have the trifecta: singing, acting and dancing!."
What's a musical without great music? "Millie" features a full score of up-tempo and jazzy songs, performed live by the talented and hard-working MHS student pit orchestra. Memorable songs include "Gimme Gimme" and "Forget About the Boy".
Student musicians in the orchestra include seniors Orchid Abar (violin), Chandler Wald (flute), Spencer Hirschfeld (saxophones), William Krinsman (french horn), Joe Wang (trumpet), Drew Adler (trumpet), Catherine Budish (trombone), Jake Kaufman (trombone), and Manav Ramesh (tuba); juniors Ashley McLeroy (string bass), Nils Sohn (trumpet), Rahul Gangan (percussion), and Chris Lim (piano); and sophomores Grant Gardner (violin), Elyse Kuo (oboe), and Laurel Meng (mallet percussion).
Karen Conrad, orchestra director, says that orchestra rehearsals are not only spent on learning to play the notes "but to give life to certain phrases and to understand the music, so that it will enhance the cast's work on stage". The dynamic cooperation between the cast and orchestra is one of the many factors that makes the show a success.
"Millie" is Limelight's first musical in years with emphasis on dance, and certainly the first tap dancing musical on the Millburn stage in decades. The cast's dancing success is very much attributable to the Limelight's brand new choreographer, Kendall Stagaard. Stagaard, who has been teaching dance since the age of thirteen, previously choreographed with Porch Light Productions in Glen Rock and multiple other community theaters and high schools. "I have been blown away by the talent of the cast, crew, and pit," Stagaard says. "Everyone is so unbelievably dedicated to making this show a success. Not to mention, everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I couldn't have asked for a better experience."
The cast of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is hoping for large crowds, to support their hard work over the past three months. The show is appropriate for all ages and will be enjoyed by all audiences: adults and children alike.
"My expectations for opening night are simply for the cast, crew and orchestra to live up to their tremendous talents. This year has gone very smoothly, and I'm sure both performances will be huge successes," Weinstein says.
Smith, who said he is proud of everyone that has been working so hard to make the musical possible, emphasizes that "the Limelight Players are much more than a group of talented kids who love to act, sing and dance. We are truly a family: the production team are the proud parents and the cast members are our children, and siblings that, even during the tough times, stick together and support each other for a common goal: an amazing show. I am so proud and honored to work with these wonderful students."
Being in the cast of this musical has been an outstanding and truly memorable experience. The entire cast has formed a great bond. We look forward to sharing what has taken over our lives in the past three months with the entire community.