Beat the drums because Millie is at the Boulder Dinner Theatre Stage and she’s wowing audiences. This Tony Award winning show, inspired by the Academy Award winning movie, follows a chic young girl in 1922 has she moves from a small Kansas town to the bustling and hip New York City. As she discovers what the city is like, she also discovers some new friends and true love.
“I play Millie Dillmount, she is a young and excited girl in 1922 going to New York and trying to explore and make her way,” says Seles VanHuss who plays the title role. “I never really played such a funny role before so it was definitely a challenge. Usually I play a more centric character or something more along those lines but you just have to explore those moments for yourself and what those moments mean for you personally.”
“There are so many wonderful moments. “Gimme Gimme”. I know I’m the only one on stage but it was the most challenging thing of the whole show for me because that moment is the moment she realizes what she really wants in life and that it’s not all about what is on the surface.” As the show progress, Millie expands her view of the world. When we first meet Millie, she is a small farm girl who is set and determined to be modern and fast passed, but by the final bow she has learned that sometimes the slower side of life is what we need.
To bring together such a large production you need someone with an equally large and ambitious imagination to make it happen.
“I wasn’t super familiar with it going in, [but] the more I got involved with it, the more fun I had,” said director Scott Beyette. “On the front-end I directed the piece, so that was a lot of work and on a nightly basis I am a member of the male ensemble.”
“It was one of the shows I was super passionate about doing. It’s my favorite time period. I don’t think you can go wrong with the 1920’s. Flapper dresses and stuff like that are kind of awesome.” A statement like that is great to hear from someone on the creative team, especially from the choreographer for a show like this. The dancing really does steal the show at times because of its power and might. Choreographer Matthew Peters went on to say, “I think it’s nice for people to escape and come out to a night of theatre and forget everything that is wrong in the world or personal life and escape for a couple of hours into a land of make believe and be happy and joyous and watch something that makes you happy and that’s important, we don’t do that enough.”
‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ is playing at the BDT Stage now through February 25th. Make sure you check this fun show out before it closes.
Below you can read Avery Anderson’s full interviews with from the show.
Matthew D. Peters (Choreographer):
What is a Choreographer?
Any of the dance numbers that happen on stage are basically created by me. I had some help for the show, one of the other girls in the show, her name’s Danielle, she helped me do one of the tap numbers. That’s kind of it, we look at the script and figure out all the numbers that need dance to it.
This show has a ton of dancing in it and a lot of complex dance talk about the process of how you came up with these numbers.
Fortunately for me I’ve worked on this show before, so I came in already knowing some things. It was one of the shows I was super passionate about doing. It’s my favorite time period, I don’t think you can go wrong with the 1920’s. Flapper dresses and stuff like that are kind of awesome. That was it, coming in and seeing when you start the audition process. Like looking for the right people, we knew we had to have Millie who was able to tap as well as do all the other stuff and tap is not always in everyone’s wheel house. So, making sure you find the right people for that. And then just looking through and trying to make it your own. I am really big on trying not to take other people’s stuff. So, trying to use my own spin on it and go from there.
What were some of those original pieces you put in there?
Almost all of the numbers are fully mine. I try not to take anybody’s stuff. We did take, go in the same direction, so like in the Speed Test there’s some stuff you have to do to get those sounds. We alter those things a little bit but the rest of the stuff is all in my head.
You aren’t just the Choreographer but also in the show. What is it like being in both those roles?
For a show like this it was a little challenging. Just because we have a limited time to rehearse. Trying to teach all of my stuff and on top of that trying to learn to speak in Cantonese and sing in Mandarin for a show which was definitely a challenge.
Seles VanHuss (Millie Dillmount):
What is it like taking on such a big role?
You got to take it one step at a time, if you look at the whole picture too quickly it’s a little over whelming for sure, but you definitely have to take it piece by piece. And really enjoy each moment of the show as your learning it, as your growing in it. It remarkable being able to play such a large role, I am very honored.
The two women who came before in this role, Julie Andrews and Sutton Foster, both big names. Did you try to emulate their performances in yours in any way?
Definitely, it’s lovely to have those people to draw information from and style from and for me Sutton Fosters comedy is so rich, it’s precise and so effortless for her. So, I am definitely inspired by her and Julie Andrews has such a wonderful essence about her always, so I was definitely inspired by them both of them in different ways.
This was still your own character, so what were some of things you tried to bring in, your own Millie?
There’s a fine line between taking others peoples, trying to mimic other people and creating stuff yourself. For me I don’t necessarily find myself to be a comedic person, I’ve never really played such a funny role before so it was definitely a challenge. Usually I play a more centric character or something more along those lines but you just have to explore those moments for yourself and what those moments mean for you personally.
And what was your favorite moment in the show?
Oh gosh, there are so many wonderful moments. “Gimme Gimme”. I know I’m the only one on stage but it was the most challenging thing of the whole show for me because that moment is the moment she realizes what she really wants in life and that it’s not all about what is on the surface. You have to really dig down to enjoy your life, and to know that life isn’t a box of chocolates, it’s more than that. She struggles so much and has just the wrong idea about life in general and that’s the moment she gets it. And so, it was really fun to discover that.
Why should audiences see the show?
It’s so fun, like visually, we have an amazing cast of people. I think there is so much talent and it’s so beautiful to watch and even in rehearsals when I got to watch I was honored to be part of such an amazing group of people. There all so sweet and kind and generous. And when you’re surrounded by such an amazing group of people it makes it even better.
Scott Beyette (Director):
What is it like directing a show like Millie?
You know I wasn’t super familiar with it going in, I knew that there was an old movie of it in the late 60’s. I knew it was on Broadway in the early 2000’s and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been at the theatre here for 27 years, directed quite a bit and performed all that time. They asked if I wanted to do this piece, so I just went in dry. The more I got involved with it, the more fun I had. Some of my background is in melodrama theatre here locally and I found that this style really lent itself well to some of my heritage and what I cut my teeth with. It was a super fun piece to work on. The music is fantastic, it’s got a little bit of everything. Tap dancing, a little bit of a love story, the kind of vaudeville trio with Mrs. Meers and the two Asian guys, it was a lot of fun. I really love the piece.
Describe what entails directing a musical?
The first thing that I like to do, especially for our space, it’s kind of an awkward space especially with the thrust stage and we don’t have fly space and very little wing space, what I hate is for audience to have to be looking in our backstage through the whole night. So, the first thing I do is figure out my transitions a set design that is going to lend itself well to accomplish all the things I just told you. And then once that’s done I have meetings with the all the designers so we can be on the same page about the through line of the concepts and then I spend time blocking the piece on paper and working with my choreographer to decide what numbers there going to do and what I have envisioned and what they have envisioned for those dance numbers to be like, if there are any odd music things, I need to meet with the music director to work those things out. Hopefully I get all that work done before I start rehearsals. And then once I am in rehearsals I am in the acting rehearsals and try to be present for the music rehearsals and the choreography rehearsals but I do also like to let those people do their jobs.
How have audiences reacted to the show?
The reaction has been very positive, I wish we had been a little more full through the holiday season. It’s a piece that is a little more obscure, especially when people are looking for holiday fair, but everybody that has seen it has really loved it. It’s just a happy, feel good, love story. A piece about a girl that finds herself, finds love in the big city. It’s really sweet and audience seem to be enjoying it.
Why should people come see the show?
It’s just really a great piece, it’s very heartwarming it’s got a lot of comedy, I think it accomplishes what art is supposed to do which is help people escape their life a little bit. And find something to talk about, and have a fun night out with their friends.