Love gets turned on its head in the musical comedy “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which will be performed this weekend at Indian River High School.
The production is a groundbreaking event, as IRHS students will perform its first book musical in recent memory. Shows are set for Friday and Saturday, March 16 and 17, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 per person.
“It’s amazing to love musicals and finally be part of a big one,” said sophomore T.J. Oxbrough. “People should come. It’s not your ordinary school production. We have a live band, we have a big cast. … It brings Broadway to your home[town]!”
The satire follows Millie’s quest to jazzy New York City, where she’ll marry a rich husband for money — not love. It’s a “thoroughly modern” approach to marriage.
“She sort of has these ironic values, but that’s the beauty of the show — that’s the comedy,” senior Savannah Padgett said of her lovable, but determined character.
Millie sets her sights on her boss, Trevor Graydon, played by Oxbrough.
“He has no clue she’s hitting on him. He’s completely clueless. He thinks of Millie as, like, a man to hang out with,” Oxbrough observed with a laugh.
Millie and her fellow boarders are also dodging the devilish landlord, “Mrs. Meers,” a failed actress who is kidnapping young actresses in a human-trafficking scheme.
“She is classic villain,” said sophomore Aidee Langa. “She was the one who was in the shadows, and now she’s going out, taking her revenge and selling off these actresses.”
Despite her jaw-dropping racism and cruelty, Mrs. Meers is strong and confident in herself to the very end, which Langa said was a fun challenge to portray.
“This show has so many plots and subplots. It’s a romance, it’s a comedy, there’s a little bit of thrill there with the ‘white slavery’ aspect,” Padgett said.
Between the laughs and sight gags, the show addresses racism, classism, fear about differences, values and women’s roles.
“It takes these things that are uncomfortable in American history and repackages and repurposes them in a funny way,” said Chantalle Ashford, director and chorus teacher. “These are things we should address. The show is an opening to that conversation.”
IRHS has had little, if any, in the way of theater productions, for years. Until now, the music department hosted musical reviews, with student-written scripts. Last year, the Drama Club performed its first traditional plays, “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Great Gatsby.”
“Come see what we have to offer. We have a lot of seriously talented students,” said Padgett, who also serves as lead choreographer, having danced since age 2 and taught since age 14.
“In theater, you need kids from all over who think in all different ways,” Ashford said.
That means students from the stage-tech class building sets and lights, and the on-stage work of the “choir kids, band kids and kids who have interest in doing drama,” said senior Ella Baull, herself a jack-of-all-trades, including hair and makeup.
The live pit band is mostly composed of students, many of whom are playing two instruments during the show. Several adults will round out the band lineup. They’re all playing professional-level jazz — tricky in its old-fashioned composition style.
“They’re doing a fantastic job. I’m really pleased, and I think they’re having fun learning all this jazz,” said band director Nathan Mohler.
The students returned the compliment.
“I honestly feel like if we didn’t have them,” Padgett said of Ashford and Mohler, “this show wouldn’t be close to what it is. They’re the foundation for this entire program, and they are so talented, just wonderful people.”
“The kids have worked really hard, and they’re really excited because it’s the first time they’ve taken on something this big,” Ashford said. “And it’s funny. Come laugh with us!”
The original book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlon has been updated slightly with new music by Jeanine Tesori and new lyrics by Dick Scanlon.
IRHS is located at 29772 Armory Road, Dagsboro. For details on the show, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (302) 569-1544.