Although July’s a pretty light month for musicals, I managed to see two shows back to back this week – a good study in contrasts. The first was Broadway Across Canada’s Wicked at the Jubilee (every bit as good as I expected, although I was amused to discover that although I’d seen only 7 years ago, I’d completely forgotten the ending, which made for a nice surprise).
While I expect everyone who follows theatre at all knows Wicked is in town, there are few who know about the other show I saw, the enchanting Thoroughly Modern Millie, put on by the Youth Singers of Calgary’s CAST (Collaborative Artists Summer Training) program production. This production is a much lower budget production done by Calgary youth and young adults after 6 weeks of rehearsal in the Youth Singers’ small studio in an industrial park near Stage West. They launched the program three years ago with Fame, and last year did Godspell, both of which I also enjoyed. I’d missed Millie when Central Memorial High did the show last year, so I was glad to get another chance so soon.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a small-town girl in the 1920’s who heads to New York to embrace the flapper lifestyle and find a rich man to wed (OK, so women didn’t have quite so many choices in those days). It was a Broadway hit in 2002 which was based on the 1967 movie of the same name with Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing (now that would be worth renting someday).
I am always impressed by the talent we have in this town at the amateur level, and this show was no exception. It was a great ensemble show and the caliber of the singing and dancing was very good, and the set, while simple, was very effective. I have to say, though, that I was blown away by Liberty Laferriere in the title role of Millie (now there’s a stage name!). Liberty has an energy that lights up the whole theatre, and man, can she belt out a tune! I’m sure we’ll see her, as well as many of these other aspiring performers on Calgary stages in years to come.
I was also pleased to see the addition of risers for the audience this year, which makes for better viewing. Even so, it’s best to sit at the front of each level or in the front row so you don’t risk having heads blocking your view. I was sufficiently inspired by the show that I chose to contribute to the CAST program’s indiegogo campaign to help cover their costs and raise money to turn the studio into a full-fledged black box theatre, something that will be a welcome addition in the south end of Calgary.
Thoroughly Modern Millie runs until August 2 and tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door (I’ve never had problems getting a ticket at the door). Note that evening shows have a 7PM start.
For more information go to youthsingers.org/cast