Meet Millie: Wolf Trap features classic
Some decades have all the luck.
If the 20th century were a high school class, the 1920s would be the knockout blonde who got all A’s and was nice to everybody. And taught the captain of the football team everything he knows above love.
The only time, to my knowledge, that the ‘20s have been out of fashion was during the ‘30s. And that was only sour grapes. What’s not to love? Jazz babies riding in rumble seats, jazz babies dancing the Charleston, jazz babies bathing in champagne…
I’m not even sure what jazz babies are, but they sound like a lot of fun.
So how do you explain the appeal of the Thoroughly Modern Millie, which opens at Wolf Trap this weekend after a preposterously successful Broadway run? How did a musical based on a 1967 Julie Andrews movie about secretaries and white slavers win six Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and the heart of every critic in the city?
Easy. It’s set in the ‘20s.
It probably didn’t hurt that the show strikes the perfect balance between nonsense and sincerity. Or that it scrapped most of the tunes from the movie and replaced them with an inspired combination of new work and theft from the likes of Arthur Sullivan and Peter Tchaikovsky.
Then there’s also the appeal of familiarity. Millie is a tale of self-invention with all the classic elements: small-town girl comes to the big city, remakes herself as an urban sophisticate, chases the wrong man before finding true love, and uses her typing skills to thwart white slavers.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen it all before. But remember: This one’s set in the ‘20s. You already wish you had a dime for every time you’ve watched a plucky secretary thwart white slavers with her typing skills. But when’s the last time you’ve seen one do it while wearing one of those great sequined dresses with the fringes that jump around when she dances?
It’s true that Wolf Trap is two hours away. But you could hear a pin drop in Charlottesville this weekend… theater-wise, at least. And Millie only runs this weekend. So go to D.C. in the morning and make a day of it.
We both know the alternative: You spend an hour deciding whether to watch TV or go to Blockbuster, an hour in Blockbuster complaining about how few good movies there are these days, and go home with How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days and a bag of nacho-flavored popcorn, which winds up spilled across your couch when you fall asleep 20 minutes in.
I’m just glad the jazz babies can’t see you this way.
Thoroughly Modern Millie runs from Friday to Sunday, with evening performances at 8pm, and matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Performances are held at the Filene Center of the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. 1645 Trap Road, Vienna. $18-45. 703-218-6500.