Gimme, Gimme: Joanne Clifton in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at the Aylesbury Waterside, UK Tour

I've loved the cast album for Millie for as long as I can remember and as a ridiculously huge Sutton Foster fan and idoliser, I thought it was going to be hard for me to imagine the show without her Tony Award-winning performance at the helm. Brilliantly, Joanne Clifton makes a charming, exuberant and refreshing Millie that - along with the rest of the cast - makes this tour a high-quality smash hit.

The musical version of Thoroughly Modern Millie opened on Broadway in 2002 taking home six Tony Awards that season including the coveted Best Musical prize and hasn't been seen in the UK since its 2003 West End run starring Amanda Holden and its consequent UK Tour in 2005. 12 years later and it is fantastic to see this gorgeous show - with a brilliant score by one of my favourite composers, Jeanine Tesori - still thrive on the stage and make the audience laugh and cheer in equal measure. It's a very special show with a lot of heart, and this new production highlights just that.

Joanne Clifton as Millie hard at work at Sincere Trust in Thoroughly Modern Millie

The fantastic Joanne Clifton shines in this dazzling revival as Millie Dillmount, a role that I did honestly question if she could make work. The role is notoriously difficult to play well because of how strenuous it is on all three measures of musical theatre performance and while we all know that she is a fantastic dancer, I worried about the other two mediums. A pleasant surprise though is how incredible her voice really is with her performance of the show's 11 o'clock number "Gimme Gimme" being one of the best moments of the entire show: powerful and impactful. The same compliments have to be extended to the rest of the cast as all of them are sublime, with special mentions going to Sam Barrett's excellent performance as Jimmy (with a voice and heartthrob status to die for) and Jenny Fitzpatrick's roof-lifting vocal performance as Muzzy, which is worth the ticket price alone.

Perhaps the weakest part of the show though is its original book by Richard Henry Morris and Dick Scanlan. There's something about the stage adaptation of this story that can't help but feel dragged out and dreary sometimes, with a lot of emphasis and time spent on story that feels kind of irrelevant and uninteresting. Mrs Meers and her storyline have been an iconic part of the story since the original Julie Andrews-led movie, but there was something about how it was presented here that felt like an awkward pantomime drag act. Perhaps this is because the role is played by Lucas Rush - a man - in this production, which isn't to fault his performance at all, but it undermined the piece at times and left me questioning why I'd spent so much of the near-3 hour running time focusing on that story.

Jenny Fitzpatrick in her fantastic performance as Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie

The music on the other hand is unquestionably good, even if some of the songs feel somewhat unnecessary. Jeanine Tesori writes some of the best tunes in town in songs like "Not For The Life of Me" and "Forget About The Boy" as well as some of the most witty lyrics, like "He's lower than a dirty cat, alley rat... and I flatter!" in "Forget About the Boy". I think the main problem with the story might be how the Mrs Meers parts of the show feels pantomine-esque, especially with several numbers that felt like "Little Girls" from Annie and the Miss Hannigan feel to the character, but I can see that this gives the show its family appeal and can appreciate it for what it is.

The design on this new production is beautiful and the fact that it's for a tour makes it infinitely more impressive. Morgan Large's design gives Millie the art deco feel and look that it drips like a melting ice cream and the set is sleek and cool to look at and enjoy. The same is to be said with Paul Gould's matching lighting design which adds to Large's set brilliantly, as well as Heather Davis' wardrobe work on the brilliant and flash costumes.

Joanne Clifton and the company of Thoroughly Modern Millie

All in all, this production of Thoroughly Modern Millie is as good as it gets in regards to this fantastic show. It has the talent, it has the music, it has the fun and it has the glamour. All you need to do now is make sure that you go and get yourself a ticket.

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre thru Saturday April 1st, while the rest of the tour runs thu July. Tickets available to purchase from here.

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