I have to admit enduring affection for the Sixties musical upon which this revival was based. Kitsch, corny and gloriously over-the-top, the quality it possessed in abundance was quirky charm and, happily, this stage version manages to capture some of the same off-the-wall appeal although its rather flimsy stage set could certainly be improved.
Much surprise was initially generated by the casting of Amanda Holden in the title role but happily she's something of a revelation as the Kansas girl suddenly transported to the Big Apple in the height of the Roaring Twenties. A confident singer and dancer she's more convincing as bobbed 'modern' than bewildered ingenue, a girl heaven-bent on eschewing romance and marrying her boss. Holden has the perfect mixture of vulnerability and native wit to prove a highly engaging heroine, equally comfortable leading the show's energetic choreography or singing the musical's memorable title song. Craig Urbani and Helen Baker are similarly impressive as Millie's chiselled boss and fluffy best buddy respectively, but Mark McGee is a trifle too slick to charm as boy-next-door Jimmy.
One of the show's chief delights is undoubtably Maureen Lipman's memorable performance as the machiavellian Mrs Meers, a failed actress masquerading as the Oriental proprietor of the hotel Priscilla, a place where 'bright young ladies/Enter the hotel Hades' as she cheerfully trills before administering chloroform to orphans whisked away as fodder for the white slave trade.
Grotesque and comical, she's verbally and physically sharp-witted, turning a hairpin into a cigarette holder whilst responding to the rather mature Muzzy van Hossmere's protestations of having just left school, "Why, did you walk all the way?!" Her two Chinese sidekicks- Ching Ho and Bun Foo are played with relish- and delightful timing- by Yo Santhaveesuk and Unku. Sheila Ferguson provides a similar touch of sophistication as the glamorous hostess Muzzy but from smalltown girl to sassy stenographer it's Holden's show all the way.
Notices from the popular press....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Sweet musical." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "The new songs are generic to the point of anonymity. Holden's Millie is comparably bland." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Has the feeling of a factory product." CHARLES SPENCER for THE TELEGRAPH says, "A second-rate production of a second-rate show." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, " The dancing is snappy." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Feels synthetic, no sooner applauded than forgotten."
External links to full reviews from newspapers