This is exactly the kind of flashy, fun musical comedy at which Paper Mill Playhouse has always excelled. Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in (and all about) the Roaring Twenties, as young Millie Dillmount arrives in New York City, seeking all the excitement it can provide before she completes her mission of marrying a wealthy captain of finance.
I was always a bit of a know-it-all girl growing up – Lisa Simpson and Hermione Granger come to mind. So it’s hardly surprising that I got a kick out of a musical about the biggest know-it-all girl of all time, Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
The John Pizzarelli Quartet always scales the heights of cabaret’s jazzier side with astonishing musicianship and elan. This particular engagement at the Café Carlyle, however, is singularly focused on their guest star Bucky Pizzarelli, John’s father as well as jazz guitar legend in his own right (having played with the likes of Benny Goodman, Les Paul and Dion and the Belmonts).
This is very much in the mold of musicals like Hairspray and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – both shows in which Kinky Boots‘ director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell had a major hand, it should be mentioned. Like them it’s a splashy, colorful, drag-filled joyride of a show, with a soft-sold message of tolerance that never gets in the way of high-energy production numbers. And like those shows, I predict Kinky Boots will be a big fat hit (if I had to guess, I’d say bigger than Priscilla, not as big as Hairspray).
Just about everything about this show is charming. To begin with, the underlying concept: the play is indirectly about Barbra Streisand’s “elegant barn”, the main subject of her book A Passion for Design. That basement includes a street and fake “shops” to display her collections. Playwright Jonathan Tolins was so tickled by the idea of those fake shops having a real shopkeeper that he created this one-man show about “Alex More” a struggling L.A. actor who takes exactly that job.