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DLHS goes 'Thoroughly Modern'

When the curtain rises on the stage of George Simson Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 2, the audience will find itself transported to another time and place: New York City, circa 1922.

That's the setting for the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which will be presented by the Detroit Lakes Public Schools theater department in five scheduled performances: Nov. 2, 4, 9 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 5 at 3 p.m.

Unlike the intense emotions or high-flying fantasy of recent offerings such as "Aida" and "Peter Pan," however, this musical's emphasis is decidedly less dramatic.

While the plot is fairly intricate, with a plethora of dance numbers woven into the play's 22 scenes, its basic premise is simple: "Boy meets girl, they fall in love, fall out of love, get back together and live happily ever after," says Mark Everson, the assistant director.

"The thing that's so appealing about it is the music," adds director Kathy Larson. "It's wonderful, top to bottom -- a really great score."

With the "Roaring 20s" as its inspiration, it's no wonder: The era's music was filled with jazz, blues and a myriad of other influences.

"I was fortunate enough to see it on Broadway, and I absolutely fell in love with it," Larson adds. "It's pure fun, from beginning to end."

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" tells the story of young Millie Dillmount, who has just moved to the city in search of a new life for herself. Believing she was intended for a grander destiny than she could find in Salina, Kansas, Millie intends to achieve that destiny by marrying a rich, successful man.

"She wants to marry her boss," Everson says. "It doesn't matter if she loves him -- just that he's successful. That's her plan, and she's sticking to it."

Of course, fate has something else in mind entirely. Though Millie finds a job at the Sincere Trust Insurance Company, and meets its wealthy owner, Trevor Graydon III, she also meets -- and falls in love with -- young Jimmy Smith, a man struggling to make his way in the world.

Romance ensues -- but it's a romance complicated both by Millie's ambitions and the fact that Jimmy, like most of the principal characters in this tale, may not be exactly as he seems.

Though the central theme may seem familiar, "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is also rife with subplots. The proprietor of the boarding house where Millie lives, Mrs. Meers, is in fact an opportunist who takes the aspiring young actresses under her roof -- many of whom happen to be orphans -- and sells them into white slavery.

Her Chinese henchmen, Bun Foo and Ching Ho, are reluctant conspirators, however. When one of them falls in love with the young woman he is supposed to kidnap, Miss Dorothy -- who also happens to be Millie's best friend -- more humorous complications ensue.

Besides its humor and exceptional music, another highlight of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is the dancing

"There are a lot of dance numbers," Everson says. "Most of these actors don't have years of dance experience, which means there's more rehearsal time needed.

"The kids have really been working hard," Larson adds. "We'll definitely be ready (for opening night)."

"They're really prepared," Everson agrees.

Tickets for all performances are $8 for adults, $5 for students, and can be purchased at The Marquee gift shop on Washington Avenue.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454