'Thoroughly Modern Millie’ is thoroughly challenging and fun

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Packed with flappers, jazz and speakeasies, the 1920s era was a nonstop party, and nowhere was it louder or more exciting than in New York City. This "modern" age, which ushered in materialism and excess just for the fun of it, is captured in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," the spring musical at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington.

The story follows Millie Dillmount, a small-town girl from Kansas whose dream of becoming a modern woman is realized when she arrives in New York City. Her plans of marrying rich are interrupted by Jimmy Smith, a brash New Yorker whom she can't seem to shake. Slowly, she falls for him, and she is faced with the question of whether her dream of being a modern woman is worth giving up for him.

Entwined with her story are others, including those of Miss Dorothy, a rich heiress who just wants to be poor; Mrs. Meers, an on-the-run con disguised as a hotel proprietor; and Ching Ho and Bun Foo, two Chinese immigrants who struggle to understand life in America. Packed with quick humor and catchy tunes, the show is as lighthearted as it is exciting.

"The O'Connell Players are really embracing this musical," said Sara Zimmerman, faculty director. "The singing and dancing in the show are challenging, but our actors find them just as fun to perform as they are to watch."

The cast members have connected to the characters they play and the stories they tell. Senior Eden Hentschel said the best humor comes from Millie's journey.

"The story has a lot of humor because we get to watch Millie strive for something so fervently, when in the end what she really wanted was just the opposite," said Hentschel.

"Throughly Modern Millie" is a large-scale production, and O'Connell's version promises much of the same. It has a full singing and dancing cast of more than 45 students, as well as a pit orchestra. The tech, prop and costume departments have been hard at work, constructing the world the characters live in, glitzy New York City of the 1920s.

With such a big cast and crew, there are many newcomers to the drama department. Senior Beverly Nugent, who is performing in her first show this spring, said the experience is very different from her expectations. "I had no idea how much work goes into the production of a musical," she said. "Participating in one has given me a deeper appreciation for theater."

For the students, the best part of the show is being able to create something they are passionate about for everyone to enjoy. As senior Nick Maleski said, "It's sometimes tiring, but it's a lot of fun."

Find out more

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" runs April 22-24 at Bishop O'Connell High School, 6600 Little Falls Rd., Arlington. For ticket information and more, visit bishopoconnell.org/OCPlayers.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016