Community Players Theater, under the direction of Chris Ryan, has gone and done it again and that’s to put on a great show of the Broadway Classic, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Though set in the 1920’s, the music and dance filled production addresses the very current and poignant topic of human trafficking interwoven in the romantic and comedic story line.
The two act play begins with Millie, (Caitlyn Buckwalter) arriving from Salina, Kansas, with eyes wide and mouth agape at the scale, hustle and bustle of New York City in 1922. Very soon, she meets Jimmy Smith (Joshua Kurator) and begins to learn she isn’t in Kansas anymore and that the big city can be cold and harsh.
Struggling to find a job, and aspiring to marry her boss, (though not yet employed), she takes a room at the Priscilla Hotel where she meets the proprietor, Mrs. Meers ( Mandie Thompson / Katie Burlington), the intake for trafficking young women who are, “So sad to be alone in the Wold.” On the verge of being evicted, Millie meets Miss Dorothy Brown from California (Michelle Kruest / Julie Burlington) and her fortunes change. She endeavors to be “Thoroughly Modern Woman,” by getting a job, scheming to marry her boss for money, the handsome Trevor Graydon (Brandon Leidelmeijer / Will Buckwalter), while unwittingly falling in love with the apparently, ne’er-do-well Jimmy Smith. Through some humorous plot twists and turns, Millie winds up with Jimmy, the human trafficking ring is broken, Miss Dorothy is rescued from living a “life of degradation” as a street walker and Miss Meers is off to jail.
The production and set design was of excellent quality, costuming dazzling (Katie Burlington / Sarah Slaven), the story line moved well carrying an important embedded social message about human trafficking, but, the rest was surprising and amazing for local theater.
The vocal quality was top notch, with solid and consistent delivery by Caitlyn Buckwalter, Michelle Kruest, and Jodi Villarreal (Muzzy Van Hossmere). Ensemble dance numbers, including the very young and kids with a little more experience were well choreographed and fun to watch. Close to bringing the audience to laughter and tears were the comedic performances by Michelle Brindle (Mrs. Flannery) as well as the would-be show-stealers Ben Ruano (Ching Ho) and Stephanie Boyle (Bun foo) the reluctant accomplices of Mrs. Meers, peaking with them singing, in some form of Chinese, “Not for the Life of Me” and “Mugin.”
Depending on when you go during the coming weekend’s last three performances (Friday, May 3, 7 pm, Saturday, May 4, 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, 2 p.m.) you may catch Will Buckwalter (Mr. Graydon), and local and regional theater veteran performers and producers Katie Burlington (Mrs. Meers) and Julie Burlington (Miss Dorothy Brown).
For a very reasonable price ($15 general and $18 reserved – but there are no bad seats in the Baily-Bees Theater located at 3575 East Valley Parkway, Escondido) you can treat yourself to fast moving and captivating show with some performances you would expect to see at Moonlight or the Civic.
Tickets for the last three shows can be purchased on line by googling “Community Players Theater (www.clcfamily.org/theater) or by calling 760-739-1650 and asking for Theater Tickets.