Shen troupe’s ‘Millie’ thoroughly magnificent

Kaeli Heffner as Millie in Shen's production of 'Thoroughly Modern Millie.' (Provided)Kaeli Heffner as Millie in Shen's production of 'Thoroughly Modern Millie.' (Provided)
Kaeli Heffner as Millie in Shen's production of 'Thoroughly Modern Millie.' (Provided)

Kaeli Heffner as Millie in Shen’s production of ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.’ (Provided)

BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
CLIFTON PARK—
‘There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities, the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.’
E.B. White
“Here Is New York”

The New York City set for the show.

The New York City set for the show.

On opening night for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” the lights dimmed, the orchestra began to play and the curtain opened to reveal the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the one the only New York City — where dreams come true.

The jazzy pizazz of trumpets, trombones and saxophones bellowed through the auditorium, transporting the audience through the barriers of time to the glitz and glam of the Roaring Twenties, full of flappers complete with bobs, short sequined dresses, costume jewelry and feather hair-pieces.

Then, a spotlight illuminated the face of sophomore Kaeli Heffner as Millie Dillmount, the small-town girl fresh off the bus from Kansas, coming to New York to marry for money instead of love. (Of course, a love story never turns out the way the protagonist plans). Thus, the play begins with her gazing up at the skyscrapers in awe, two long braids in her hair and suitcases in hand.

“I studied all the pictures in magazines and books
I memorized the subway map too
It’s one block north to Macy’s and two to Brothers Brooks
Manhattan, I prepared for you . . .”

After a 30-second costume change (nicely done), she returns with a bright — and short — yellow dress and a bob haircut, completely converted into a bold “modern.” Well, that is until she gets mugged (ah, life in the city) and meets the handsome and carefree Jimmy Smith who tells her to head home because she doesn’t belong in the big city.
After a moment of doubt she brushes his words aside, even more determined to make it.

Soon Millie lands a job as a stenographer at Sincere Trust and has her heart set on marrying her boss, Trevor Graydon III. But then there is someone else who worms his way into her heart, . . . so she must struggle with following her brain or her heart.

From her first note to her last, it was clear that Heffner is truly at home on a stage. Her performance was stunning, especially considering her age, as she interchanged between soft soprano to belting out long-winded notes. Her voice consumed the theater. (She and senior Brenna Joyce each played the title character twice, splitting the four-performance run.)

(From left) Brenna Joyce (Millie) and Nicole Rizzo (Mrs. Meers) are seen in rehearsal.

(From left) Brenna Joyce (Millie) and Nicole Rizzo (Mrs. Meers) are seen in rehearsal.

Shenendehowa Musical Company’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” surpassed the level of a high school play and wowed the audience with a professional performance. From March 5 through 7, Broadway was brought to Clifton Park.

There were so many contributing factors — and actors — making this musical a success: the tap dance numbers, the perfectly pitched high notes of Miss Dorothy Brown (Maureen Gallagher), the cool-guy persona of Jimmy Smith (Ryan Mewhorter), the efficient, time-obsessed Trevor Graydon (Josh Huff) and a wonderful performance by Marissa Pierre as the wealthy Muzzy Von Hossmere.

Nicole Rizzo’s portrayal of Mrs. Meers, the mysterious and evil owner of the Hotel Priscilla who works for a white slavery ring in Hong Kong, continually kidnapping orphan girls and shipping them off to the Orient, was quite well done.

Nicole Rizzo as Mrs. Meers.

Nicole Rizzo as Mrs. Meers.

One also can’t fail to recognize Patrick Ferguson and Nick DeMasi, who play the brothers Bun Foo and Ching Ho, respectively. Not only did they execute their roles well, but while speaking — and singing — every line in Mandarin! Talk about a tough memorizing job.

(From left) Patrick Fergusan (Bun Foo) and Nick DeMasi (Ching Ho) stare at Mrs. Meers.

(From left) Patrick Fergusan (Bun Foo) and Nick DeMasi (Ching Ho) stare at Mrs. Meers.

Whiz, bang, flip, flop!
“Millie” came out on top.