Explosive tap numbers to music from the Roaring ’20s promises to take you back the Flapper era in Xtreme Theatre’s production Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The story is set in New York City in 1922 and tells the story of Millie Dillmount, played by Alea Cook, who moves to the big city from Kansas and is determined to make a new life for herself by finding a job and marrying a wealthy man.
Millie’s plans go south, however, when the man she wants to marry is slow to propose and the man she actually falls in love with doesn’t have a dime to his name.
“It is a take on the modern woman in 1920,” explained Xtreme Theatre director Lalainia Lindbjerg Strelau.
“It’s about taking on the stereotype that happened to not be a girl with long hair and flowing locks. You came out of the Victorian era into the ’20s and girls chopped off their hair and shortened their skirts. It’s about this one pioneer woman who is following the flapper footsteps and the flapper lifestyle,” she said.
The 2002 original Broadway version of the musical was the winner of six Tony Awards, including best musical, and was the season’s most awarded new show on Broadway. It was based on the 1967 Academy Award-winning film starring Julie Andrews as Millie and Mary Tyler Moore as her roommate Dorothy Brown.
“Xtreme has been going for 17 years and I don’t think they’ve ever tackled tap,” said Strelau, who, even though she was directing the production, she also took on the challenge of teaching the students the tap dance numbers.
“We ended up doing three tap numbers. We probably could have done more, but because I was doing double duty and we had hired somebody else to choreograph, we decided on the three,” Strelau continued.
The first month of rehearsals were spent teaching 42 students with no experience how to tap.
“I think maybe two or three of my students dance and then I think only one of those students had tap,” explained Strelau.
“Honestly, we didn’t know if it would be a disaster or not. We just in faith went ahead. I was so impressed with how hard they worked,” said the director.
Strelau said they also chose to do this musical because it is a Singing in the Rain-type, with a lot of comedy and a style.
“Also, because we have a really huge group of kids and we really love doing stuff with big numbers in it. Big dancing. Unlike other theatre groups, we have a lot of guys in the group, so we like to have stuff that’s really fun for them. There’s a really great guys’ chorus in the show, too,” she added.
Strelau’s favourite number is Forget About The Boy because it’s about a girl trying to convince herself that she doesn’t need this boy and thinking that he life is falling apart when everyone in her office has it together.
“What you discover is from her divulging just a tiny bit of information, you discover that every single person in the office feels the same way,” said Strelau.
“So it starts as a solo and ends as a massive tap dancing chorus of women saying forget about him. And they all end up encouraging each other and sticking together,” she laughed.
The production will have two full casts of close to 60 students.
Strelau hopes that people will feel the joy of what the arts can bring to the community and enjoy the energy of the show.
“This is a really extremely dedicated group of kids that put on this massive musical at a scale that is quite high,” said Strelau.
”The music is fantastic. You sit and you just feel joyful. It’s very uplifting.”
Xtreme theatre was created by Wendy Holm to provide an opportunity for all home-schooled children to experience musical theatre. The group has a Christian leaning, but children of all faith backgrounds are welcome to join.
Xtreme Theatre’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie – book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Dick Scanlan – takes place May 16 at 2 p.m. with a $12 preview show at 7:30 p.m. and then May 17 to 19 at 7:30 p.m. with another 2 p.m. matinee on May 19 at the ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place, Maple Ridge.
• Tickets are $16 and are available by calling 604-476-2787 or go to theactmapleridge.org.